Aunt leaves child in broiling car

2008-03-05 00:00

The aunt of an 18-month-old baby and her friend were arrested at a shopping centre on the south coast yesterday after locking the infant in the car in the torrid heat.

The little boy’s 26-year-old aunt, in whose care he’d been left, only returned to the car 25 minutes after the screaming, dehydrated child was taken out of the vehicle, said Superintendent Zandra Hechter.

One of the car’s windows had been left about half a centimetre open, while the humidity and discomfort index had risen to 35°C.

Hechter said a car guard heard the infant screaming and called the police. The child was drenched in sweat by the time the police broke the window to take him out of the car.

The little boy was treated for dehydration and sunstroke and taken to hospital, said Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha.

“Dehydration and sunstroke is dangerous because it can cause organ failure,” Botha said.

The infant’s aunt and her 23-year-old friend, the car owner, were charged with child neglect.

According to the weather service, the temperature was 28°C in Margate and the humidity caused the discomfort index to rise by a further seven degrees.

The Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Southern Africa said the temperature inside a closed vehicle can rise to 54,4°C within 10 minutes if it is 32°C outside. Within a mere 90 seconds the temperature can rise by 11°C.

Last year, Abigail Ntunja (42) was given a suspended fine of R2 000 after leaving a 20-month-old toddler in a vehicle at the same shopping centre.

Also last year, a child died in Cape Town after being forgotten by her father in a closed car.

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