The twins “seem to be well taken care of by their family,” Rutherford said, who personally attended the autopsies. “If this is an unfortunate accident, we pray that the family one day finds peace.”
“We have two very distraught parents,” she said.
The infants were found by one of their parents, according to Rutherford. She didn’t say which parent.
The infants were likely placed in the SUV at 7:30 a.m., Rutherford said. They were in rear-facing car seats. The parent likely forgot to drop the children off at day care and went to work, according to Rutherford’s description of the timeline.
The parent went to the Sunshine House Early Learning Academy about 5:30 p.m, Rutherford said. It was then that the children were found to have been in the vehicle all day. The children were enrolled in the day care, according to Rutherford. With the evidence investigators have now, staff at the day care was not involved.
The coroner’s office is working with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and the S.C Department of Social Services to investigate and pin down a more exact timeline, Rutherford said. The coroner’s new child fatality team is part of the investigation.
On Wednesday, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department said it responded to a report of two unresponsive infants at the day care. Paramedics pronounced the infants dead on the scene. Deputies are investigating the deaths.
“If this was indeed a criminal act, we pray for justice,” Rutherford said.
Examines and X-rays on the children showed no signs of abuse, according to Rutherford. Testing is being done to confirm or rule out the children dying from poison or drugs. The autopsy found an unspecified abnormality in the children’s lungs that needs further testing, Rutherford said.
Until confirmation of heat stroke, the children’s death are listed as pending further studies.
With the temperature on Sept. 1, inside the vehicle could have easily been as high as 120 degrees, according to the organization Kids and Car Safety.
The high temperature recorded Wednesday at Columbia Metropolitan Airport was 83 degrees, and that was at 5:56 p.m., according to Weather Underground.
“Hot car deaths continue to take place because nobody believes this could happen to them,” Janette Fennell, president of Kids and Car Safety, said. “The unfortunate reality is that this has happened to even the most loving, responsible and attentive parents.”
Kids and Car Safety said these strategies can help prevent parents from leaving children in cars.
Place the child’s diaper bag or item in the front passenger seat as a visual cue that the child is with you.
Make it a habit of opening the back door every time you park to ensure no one is left behind. To enforce this habit, place an item that you can’t start your day without in the back seat (employee badge, laptop, phone, handbag, etc.)
Ask your child care provider to call you right away if your child hasn’t arrived as scheduled.
Clearly announce and confirm who is getting each child out of the vehicle. Miscommunication can lead to thinking someone else removed the child.
This year in South Carolina, at least three children have died from being left in cars, mainly from heat stroke, according to Kids and Car Safety. In 2018, South Carolina also led the nation in kids dying from being left in vehicles, The State reported. On average, 39 children a year die from being left in cars in the United States.