Tragedy struck Tulsa, Oklahoma this weekend when two young children, ages 4 and 3, died in a hot car while on a visitation weekend with their father. Tegan,4, and Ryan, 3,perished on Sunday and their father, Dustin Dennis, was arrested on two complaints of second-degree murder.
Dennis told police he drove to QuickTrip with his children around noon and went back to his home a short time later. He said he got the kids out of the car and fell asleep for about five hours. Based on his interview with the police, Dennis said when he woke up, he couldn’t find his kids; after searching for them, he found them on the floorboard of his truck. Upon finding them dead, he carried the children inside to his living room and called police.
While a neighbor first reported that Dennis had left his children behind in the car when he went inside, video evidence shows the children climbed into the truck on their own while the father was napping and never came out.
Based on that new video evidence today, according to the Tulsa District Attorney’s Office, “Video surveillance footage from a neighbor’s home confirmed that the children managed to get into the truck and tragically never got out. Based upon that newly discovered evidence the detectives immediately reported it to our office. We then presented that information to the judge who initially set bond. Mr. Dennis was authorized for release on a personal recognizance bond. No formal charges have been filed in this case. It is always important to note that our Constitution guarantees the presumption of innocence for any person accused of or arrested for a crime. That presumption of innocence remains until and unless a judge or jury determines otherwise. “
The children’s aunt, Chantiel Keyes, has set-up a GoFundMe page to assist with paying for the funeral arrangements for Tegan and Ryan. In an update to the page today, Keyes writes, “We have just been informed that there is a evidence showing that this was nothing but a tragic accident. I am not sure it makes it any easier because even though you want to place blame there is no one to blame.”
According to NoHeatstroke.Org, the majority of hot car deaths, amounting to 54% of them, happen because someone forgets a child in a car. About 46% of the time a child was forgotten, the caregiver had planned to drop the child off at a care facility such as a daycare or preschool. Almost 75% of all children who are forgotten and die are under 2 years old.
Heatstroke occurs when a person’s temperature exceeds 104 degrees F. At that point, the ability for a human to regulate their temperature and bodily functions fails. At first, symptoms of heatstroke include dizziness, disorientation, confusion, sluggishness, loss of consciousness, and rapid heartbeat. Once the body temperature climbs to 107 degrees or greater, internal organs begin to shut down and human cells are damaged. It is at this point death can quickly occur. This is especially true in children; small bodies can’t regulate body temperatures as efficiently as an adult’s; as such, a child’s body can warm 2-3 times faster than that of an adult.
Automobiles can become deadly ovens in the summer. When the outside temperature is only 70, the temperature inside a vehicle can climb to 113 degrees in an hour. On a 95 degree day, temperatures inside a vehicle can warm to 138 degrees in an hour.
Authorities warn drivers to never leave a child in an unattended car, even with the windows down. Drivers should make it a habit to open the rear door of the car every time they park to ensure no one is left inside. Children have also been known to sneak into cars on their own, becoming trapped and dying as a result. To prevent that, authorities recommend that people keep their vehicle locked at all times, even when it is inside a garage. Authorities also recommend that keys never be left within reach of children. If a child is ever missing, people should immediately check the inside, floorboards, and trunk of all vehicles in the area.
On average, a child dies in the United States every 8 days from being left behind in a hot car.