Palm Harbor toddler becomes 29th vicim in hot car deaths this year

Preventing hot car deaths

PALM HARBOR, FL -- A Palm Harbor father is out on bond facing aggravated manslaughter charges in the heat-related death of his son.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office says 23-month-old Lawson Whitaker died after his father, Troy Whitaker, 41, left him in a hot car Friday.

The death of Lawson makes this the 29th hot car death for children in the United States this year.

In Florida, it's the fourth.

Two of the cases resulted in arrests and the other two resulted in no charges as of right now.

It raises the question, why was there an arrest in this case and not others? Here's the explanation Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri gave Friday night:

"He (Troy Whitaker) was clearly negligent and could offer no explanation other than he thought he dropped the kid off and he didn't and that doesn't make any sense -- quite frankly," Gualtieri said.

According to noheatstroke.org, 690 children have died in hot cars since 1998 and in more than half of the cases the children were forgotten.

Charlene Cobb with Safe Kids Pinellas is passionate in addressing this issue.

She ran down some easy things you can do to make sure little ones aren't left in these tragic situations.

"Some of the things that...you can do is even putting your left flip flop in the back of your car, putting your briefcase, your wallet, your purse, putting your keys in the back of your car -- if you have keyless ignition,” she said.  

“Some of the other things that we have are these little reminders, even a piece of ribbon that we can hang on the door. So, if I put something on my door handle, every time I go to open up my door and I touch it, it just prompts me, it reminds me."

And, here's something you might not think about. She said a third of these cases happen when kids are able to unlock cars and get inside themselves, so watch where you put your keys.

The goal for everyone is to prevent these tragedies from ever happening again.


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