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3-year-old dies after being left in car in Tampa

TAMPA — With her three young cousins in tow, Rodline Rigby went to church Sunday.

One of the cousins shepherded the youngest boy inside to Sunday School. Rigby went into the adult chapel.

Ninety minutes later, after the services were over, they realized Hally, 3, was still in her car seat.

The little girl became the 43rd child to die nationwide this year from heat-related causes after being left in a vehicle, according to a car safety advocacy group.

Tampa police are still investigating but say it appears to be a tragic oversight.

Rigby was so hysterical she had to be taken to a psychiatric unit Sunday, her family said. She was released from the hospital Monday afternoon, according to police.

The 12-year-old boy who had remembered to bring in Hally's little brother, age 22 months, was also distraught, said another cousin.

"Yesterday, he was staring off into space, and he was shaking," said Mike Julien, 18. "He wouldn't eat nothing. We tried to tell him it's not his fault."

Hally's mother, Melissa Rozin, kept a stoney expression as she talked with reporters Monday. She's expecting her third child in a few months, and her family is concerned about her stress.

Rozin didn't want to talk about her daughter. Looking at the photos of the smiling little girl was hard enough for her.

But she said she doesn't blame Rigby for her daughter's death. Rozin she said she wanted to tell Rigby: "I know you love my kids. I still love you the same."

Rigby, 25, found Hally in the sport utility vehicle when she returned to it at 1:43 p.m. Sunday, after the service at Eben-ezer Baptist Haitian Church on Ninth Street near Ybor City, police said.

Church members rushed Hally inside and attempted CPR before paramedics took her to Tampa General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

At 1:30 p.m. Sunday, the temperature outside was 93 degrees, according to Bay News 9 meteorologists. After an hour, the temperature inside a closed vehicle can rise 40 to 50 degrees, according to national advocacy group Kids and Cars.

"After an hour, if the child even survives that long, it's intolerable," said the group's president, Janette Fennell. "Children heat up three to five times faster than adults. Their thermoregulatory systems aren't as developed."

According to police, Rigby apparently thought her 12-year-old cousin brought the little girl into the church, while the 12-year-old boy thought Rigby had looked after Hally.

The church's pastor, Jean Lubin, said toddlers can be placed in Sunday school, which is held in a separate room at the back of the sanctuary. Older children, like the 12-year-old boy, have their Sunday school in a separate building.

So neither cousin would have been with Hally during the service.

Lubin was in Orlando on Sunday and missed the service, but he said he drove back that afternoon so he could pray for and comfort Hally's family.

"It's a very, very tough situation for us," he said.

Hally's godmother, Rashelle Tragean, said Hally was a very smart little girl who could speak Haitian Creole, French and English. She often cared for her younger brother and would make sure her mom had everything she needed in her bag before they'd leave the house, Tragean said.

"We all wish that we're sleeping now and we're going to wake up," Tragean said. "But this is it."

She called her family's tragedy a "wake-up call for everybody." She wants people to be more mindful of their own children, as well as other people's kids.

She thinks that if someone else had looked in the SUV on Sunday, that person might have seen Hally and prevented this horrible accident.

"Sometimes we forget the most important things in life," she said. "Our baby's gone."

Times researcher John Martin and staff writer Danny Valentine contributed to this report.

.FAST FACTS

Safety tips

. Never leave children alone in a vehicle, not even for a minute.

. Put something you'll need (a purse, cell phone, work ID) in the back seat near the child as a reminder.

. Get in the habit of opening the back door each time you park.

. Keep a large stuffed animal in the child's seat when it's not occupied. When you place the child in the seat, move the animal to the front passenger seat as a reminder.

. Make arrangements with the child's caregiver so that you will always be called if the child is not dropped off as scheduled.

. If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. If he or she looks sick, get the child out immediately and call 911.

For more information:

www.kidsandcars.org

Source: Kids and Cars

3-year-old dies after being left in car in Tampa 09/13/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 12:27am]

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