Lancaster boy, 3, in critical condition after being found in hot car

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comJuly 3, 2014 

— On a typical day when his grandfather returns home from work, Logan Cox runs out his house, jumps into his arms and greets him as “paw-paw.”

But Logan, 3, didn’t meet his grandfather on Wednesday. Instead, the boy was airlifted to a Charlotte hospital where he remained under sedation Thursday. He’s in critical condition, deputies say, after he was stuck in a hot car outside his home in Lancaster County’s Buford community.

“He’s my heart,” said Jimmy Clevinger, Logan’s grandfather. “I don’t know what to think anymore. If something happened to him, it’d kill me.”

Deputies at about 1:15 p.m. Wednesday were sent to a Walnut Road home after receiving reports of a child found in a car, according to a Lancaster County Sheriff's news release. When deputies arrived, paramedics were treating the boy. Clevinger said EMS took his grandson, who was red-faced and complained of being hot, to the Buford Volunteer Fire Department, where he was flown to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.

Clevinger on Thursday said Logan was not responding to stimuli like doctors want him to, but they’re hopeful about his recovery.

Logan lives with his parents and grandparents. Deputies say it appears Logan left his house without his mother’s knowledge. He was playing with one of the family’s dogs in the car, a black Mitsubishi Gallant, but could not get out.

Authorities on Thursday were unsure how long Logan was in the car, said Maj. Matt Shaw of the Sheriff’s Office.

In a 911 call, Logan’s grandmother reported that her daughter had been asleep for about 30 minutes, and Logan, who she said figured out how to open the front door, had run out.

Clevinger said he was at his construction job when he got the call about his grandson.

“It had my nerves tore up to pieces,” Clevinger said. “I know it was an accident ... a normal three year old ...h e’s going to get up and get out.”

Logan and his mother, Amber Bender, had been sitting on the couch watching television when Bender “dozed off,” Clevinger said.

When she awoke, she realized her son was missing. Relatives found Logan in the car when they noticed the hazard lights blinking. Clevinger says the car doors were locked, but his grandson has learned how to unlock the car door. Clevinger believes Logan was unable to push the door back open because it’s heavy.

“It’s just heart-wrenching,” he said.

The family dog, a 9-year-old basset hound and pit bull mix, did not survive.

Clevinger, who said he got his pet when he was just a “white ball of fur,” was like Logan’s “guard dog.” Wednesday evening, Clevinger’s son buried the family pet in the yard.

While the Lancaster County family hopes for Logan’s recovery, other families have suffered losses from cases like this.

Last year, 44 children in the United States died of heatstroke. This year, at least 13 have died after they were left in locked, hot cars, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to prevent unintentional injuries in children.

Those fatalities are “100 percent preventable,” said Robert White, co-chair of Safe Kids York County. “When parents get home, they have to lock their doors.”

White encourages parents to place “reminders,” such as cell phones, purses and briefcases, in close proximity to their children if they fear they might forget them in the car.

Tinted windows and even air conditioning don’t prevent the car from getting very hot because radiant heat seeps in through the car’s roof and metal shell, cutting off any “air exchange” inside the car, authorities say.

“A car acts like a greenhouse,” said Jan Null, a certified consulting meteorologist in San Francisco, Calif. “Warm objects inside the car heat up the air,” which is “trapped” inside the car, incapable of mixing with cooler air.

“That temperature keeps rising and rising and eventually plateaus after about an hour,” Null said, adding that the temperature inside a car can easily reach up to 45 degrees higher than the temperature outside.

Afternoon temperatures in Lancaster County reached a high of 94 degrees on Wednesday. Null said it’s possible the temperature inside the Mitsubishi Gallant where Logan was trapped could have reached nearly 140 degrees.

The bodies of infants and small children, he said, heat up much faster than adults. Once the human body reaches 104 degrees, it stops perspiring, Null said, resulting in dehydration. At 107 degrees, organs start dying, White said, as the body is unable to absorb fluids to replenish itself.

Even if a child does not die in a hot car, Null said, the long-term effects can be “horrendous.”

“In some of these cases, children do not die but they have very severe brain damage (because) the brain is overheated and cells have died in it,” he said.

Clevinger said he’s heard many of the horror stories about children who were left in hot vehicles.

“An accident can happen to anybody,” he said. “When it happens to you, that’s when it hits home.”

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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