Fairfax County

Toddler Dies After Being Left in Hot Car in Virginia

A 2-year-old girl died after her mother's boyfriend accidentally left her in the back seat of a hot car for hours on Wednesday, police said.

Daiquan Fields, 32, called 911 when he saw the lifeless toddler in the car, but it was too late.

Fields was arrested and charged with felony child neglect and involuntary manslaughter, Arlington County Police said in an update Thursday evening. He was in the custody of the county.

Fields left Annandale, Virginia, Wednesday morning with the 2-year-old and her siblings, who are 10 and 15. He dropped off the two older children and then drove back home, not realizing he had left the 2-year-old in the car, according to Fairfax County Police, who initially had control of the investigation.

Fields returned to the car several hours later to pick up the children's mother from her job at the mall in Pentagon City. When he arrived, he saw the toddler and called for help.

The little girl was rushed to Virginia Hospital Center, where she was pronounced dead.

Fields routinely drops his girlfriend's children off at two different locations, but something may have interrupted the routine Wednesday, Fairfax County police said. 

"When people get into routines like this, they become accustomed to doing things in an order," Don Goddard of the Fairfax County Police Department said. "If that routine or habit changes, sometimes it leads to a tragedy."

The high Wednesday was 71 degrees. The inside of a car can reach 115 degrees in an hour when it is hotter than 70 degrees outside, according to researchers at San Francisco State University. 

Fairfax County police said early Thursday they did not believe the man had any criminal intent. 

Heatstroke is a leading cause of death among children.

"We have seen children die in hot cars on days where it was in the 50s outside, so what feels comfortable to us is not comfortable to our children," said Amber Rollins, the director of the safety group KidsAndCars.org.

The group recommends leaving a stuffed animal in a child's car seat. When you buckle in the child, move the stuffed animal to the front seat as a reminder the child is there. Or, move your bag, work identification card or even your left shoe into the back seat as a reminder.

News4 has tips on how to keep children safe, including by giving yourself visual and audible reminders that children are in the car. 

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner could not determined where the child died. The Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney’s Office and the Arlington County Commonwealth's Attorney’s Office determined the prosecution would be handled by Arlington.

Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call Arlington County police at 703-228-4169 or email NKbrooks@arlingtonva.us. Information can be submitted anonymously by calling 1-866-411-TIPS.

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