Crime Scene
A one-year-old infant died after being left all day in a pickup truck out in the sun. In this photo, crime scene tape surrounds the Eugene Simpson Field, the site where a gunman opened fire in Alexandria, Virginia, June 15, 2017. Getty Images/ Mark Wilson

A one-year-old infant died after being left all day in a pickup truck out in the sun on Wednesday.

According to the police, the adoptive father of the child forgot about his baby and left her in the car when he returned home to Virginia Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee, after dropping off her sibling at the daycare center. He parked the car out in front of the home and the fact that his one-year-old daughter was inside the car skipped his mind.

The infant was discovered inside the vehicle when her adoptive mother returned home. The infant was rushed to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead on arrival, Fox News reported.

The identities of the child’s parents were not released by the Metro Nashville police as they continued to investigate the case. It is also unclear if the adoptive father of the victim will be charged for the incident.

In a study published Thursday in the journal “Temperature,” researchers from Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine analyzed how different types of cars heat up on a hot day when exposed to different periods of direct sunlight and shade and how it might affect the body temperature of a 2-year-old in a hypothetical scenario.

On a hot day in Arizona, when the temperature hit over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the researchers left different kinds of vehicles ranging from minivans to economy cars out in the sun before moving it to the shade throughout the day and all the while kept tabs on the temperatures in the interior of the car as well as its surface.

They found that after being left out in the sun for an hour, the average cabin temperature of the vehicles hit 116 degrees Fahrenheit, dash boards averaged 157 degrees Fahrenheit, steering wheels 127 degrees Fahrenheit, and seats reached 123 degrees Fahrenheit.

At the same time, an hour in the shade resulted in average interior temperature close to 100 degrees, dash boards averaging 118 degrees, steering wheels 107 degrees and seats hitting 105 degrees, proving that “even parking a vehicle in the shade can be lethal to a small child.”

“We've all gone back to our cars on hot days and have been barely able to touch the steering wheel," said Nancy Selover, an Arizona State climatologist and research professor in ASU's School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. "But, imagine what that would be like to a child trapped in a car seat. And once you introduce a person into these hot cars, they are exhaling humidity into the air. When there is more humidity in the air, a person can't cool down by sweating because sweat won't evaporate as quickly."

Although factors like the age and weight of a person as well as health problems and what he/she is wearing might affect how hyperthermia (elevated average body temperature occurring when the body produces more heat than it can give off) affects a person, a young child is most likely to experience heatstroke once its body temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using data to model a hypothetical two-year-old boy's body temperature, the study found that a child trapped inside a car could suffer hyperthermia if left out in the sun for an hour or even under shade for two hours.

But how does a parent simply forget that their child was still inside the car? "Often these stories involve a distracted parent," Gene Brewer, an ASU associate professor of psychology, who was not one of the researchers in the study, said. "Memory failures are remarkably powerful, and they happen to everyone. There is no difference between gender, class, personality, race or other traits. Functionally, there isn't much of a difference between forgetting your keys and forgetting your child in the car."

Brewer added that most people develop cognitive passageways in the brains when they perform routine tasks day in and day out. So, for them, the tasks become almost second nature which they perform without giving much thought. However, when the routines are disrupted by new information like “a parent's daycare drop-off day suddenly changing or an emergency phone call from a boss on the way to work,” memory failures are known to occur.

“These cognitive failures have nothing to do with the child," Brewer said. "The cognitive failure happens because someone's mind has gone to a new place, and their routine has been disrupted. They are suddenly thinking about new things, and that leads to forgetfulness. Nobody in this world has an infallible memory."

An average of 37 children in the United States, die annually from complications of hyperthermia after being left in hot cars.