For the first time since temperatures rose this season, a child – a boy about a year old – died of heat prostration on Sunday when his parents “forgot” him in their car, in the settlement of Beit Hagai in the South Hebron Hills, and remembered only around noon. By then, he was dead and nothing could be done to resuscitate him.
United Hatzalah (UH) medics who were called in too late waited for the Israel Police and ZAKA to arrive to investigate and take care of the body.
The ambient temperature (outside the car) was 37 degrees Celsius, but after only 20 minutes the temperature inside the car rose to 47 degrees. Because infants’ and toddlers’ (and pets’) bodies are small, their body temperature is liable to rise quickly, even if a window is left slightly open.
According to Beterem, the national center for child safety and health, between 2008 and the end of the summer last year, 13 young children died in the same circumstances, while dozens of others were left by parents or caregivers but resuscitated. Beterem director Orly Silbinger said that leaving a child under the age of six in a vehicle without supervision is a criminal offense for which violators may get a prison sentence.
UH president Eli Beer – whose medics were the first on the scene, followed by Magen David Adom ambulance personnel – said he will immediately print 50,000 more stickers in various languages to be affixed to the inside of car doors below the window that show a toddler in a car and state: “Don’t leave me in the car – not for even a second!” As the driver views the sticker every time he enters and leaves the vehicle – and while traveling – and does not intend to kill his child, the simple idea has had a positive effect. None of the fatalities involved a vehicle with a sticker on the inside door.
Beer said that after hearing the idea from The Jerusalem Post five years ago, he has distributed over 500,000 stickers in Hebrew, English, Arabic, Amharic, Yiddish and other languages, with sponsorship by the Harel insurance company.
He hopes he will get sponsorship again this year and have the stickers handed out at petrol stations around the country.
The original idea was to require all cars to bear such stickers in relevant languages as a condition for owners renewing their annual vehicle licenses.
“We are doing our best to prevent this tragedy from happening again and are committed to work until a year when no baby will die such a tragic death,” Beer said in a call to the Post during a working visit to Turkey.
Although Health Minister Yael German endorsed the idea with enthusiasm, and four deaths of young children left in vehicles raised a furor around the country last summer, the ministry has taken no action to prevent more tragedies.
Pnina Shalev, the personal spokeswoman of the minister, said she would inform German of the Beit Hagai tragedy but did not comment further.