After this mom had dropped her daughter off at daycare in New Albany, Indiana, her son was due to spend the day at another location. But instead she headed straight to work, with her baby boy still in his infant’s seat. Then, as she went about her daily business, the ultimate heartbreaking tragedy unfolded.
July 23, 2018 may have been a fairly typical day in the life of Aaron Turner’s two kids. His ex-girlfriend dropped their two-year-old daughter off at the Kids Care Academy daycare center. Then she was due to take their three-month-old son, Aiden Miller, to a separate daycare facility.
But Miller’s mom, who hasn’t been named, missed the stop for her baby’s drop-off, which was only about two miles from her daughter’s stop. Instead she drove straight to work at the Express Care facility in New Albany, Indiana. She pulled up in the parking lot and headed inside the building.
There was nothing particularly outstanding about the day. With New Albany being located in the very south of the state, just across the border from Louisville, Kentucky in fact, it wasn’t even a particularly hot one for the middle of summer. Indeed, the top temperature was recorded at 78 °F.
But while Miller’s mom went about her day in the care center, something was happening in her car that she hadn’t realized. Dropping him off at daycare hadn’t been the only thing she’d forgotten that day. She had allegedly missed that he was still strapped in his infant seat.
Now, unpleasant things happen when cars are parked in the sun, even when the weather isn’t especially hot. With the sun continually beating through the windshield, the air inside the vehicle starts to heat up. Within about 10 minutes, a car’s internal temperature can reach upwards of 110 °F.
It was only as she finished work, however, that Miller’s mom realized her mistake. She returned to her car in the parking lot at the end of her shift at about 4:30 p.m. When she opened the door to the vehicle, she reportedly was greeted by a smell that she wasn’t able to identify.
As Turner explained to WAVE3 in July 2018, “She said she opened the door and was like, ‘What is that smell?’ and she noticed Aiden was still in the back seat.” The three-month-old had been left alone in the car all day, and as the temperature inside climbed, a tragedy had unfolded.
The core temperature of the human body ranges from 97.7 °F to 99.5 °F. A rise in that temperature to 100.9 °F may occur from a fever. A significant increase in body temperature to 104 °F and higher, however, can cause heatstroke, the results of which can be dire.
When Miller’s mom realized that her baby son was still on the back seat of the car, she immediately called 911. The child was unresponsive. She grabbed her baby and hurriedly took him into the medical center where she had just finished her shift. Staff desperately tried to revive the infant.
When first responders arrived, they continued resuscitation efforts on the baby as he was hurried to the nearby Baptist Floyd Hospital. But attempts to revive the three-month-old were in vain. The temperatures in the car that day were too extreme. He was declared dead on arrival.
Turner, understandably, was devastated. Experiencing a mix of emotions ranging from confusion and anger to hurt and grief, he described to WAVE3, “I still don’t understand how that happened. Obviously it happens. It just happened in my family. It doesn’t get any closer to home than this.”
KidsAndCars.org is an organization advocating for child welfare in every aspect of vehicle safety. At the time of Miller’s accident, 28 children had suffered confirmed heatstroke deaths after being left in hot cars in the United States in 2018. It’s a number that has risen steadily since.
“People don’t believe this can happen to them. And that’s why we continue to see it happen,” KidsAndCars.org director Amber Rollins explained. One of the problems is that parents may not think their child is at risk if left alone for a short period, even in cooler temperatures.
On her website, Rollins explained how kids are at risk of heatstroke even in temperatures as low as the 50s. The National Safety Council suggests devising a set routine and sticking to it to keep focused. Rollins, meanwhile, offers an explanation why Miller, along with many others, may have been forgotten about.
Factors such as fatigue and stress can affect how the brain functions. Rollins explains, “It’s these competing memory systems in our brain and going on autopilot – which is what happens when someone drives past the daycare and goes straight to work, thinking their kid is safe and sound all day long.”
According to Rollins’ theory, if Miller’s mom was tired or under pressure, she may have switched to autopilot after dropping off her two-year-old daughter, forgetting about her son. Rollins said, “[It] is not a conscious decision. It just happens. You can’t train your brain not to forget.”
The National Safety Council told KidsAndCars.org that it was “deeply concerned that – despite increased public awareness – we are just a single tragedy away from a level we hoped never to reach again.” At 48, the U.S. was just one death away in 2018 from its previous highest toll of kids perishing in hot cars.
While it’s not yet been concluded what happened to Miller, kids can find themselves left in cars for various reasons. Some go exploring, and climb into unlocked vehicles by themselves. Others can be left alone either intentionally, not knowing the risks, or accidentally, as Miller’s mom claimed.
Turner described his baby boy as one who hadn’t made a fuss and had only cried when he had grown hungry. He also recalled how the three-month-old would smile when he had heard his voice. He told WLKY in July 2018, “I don’t understand how this could happen, and my heart is broken. My biggest hope is in sharing this story, another child’s life will not be lost.”