(CNN) — A 3-year-old boy in Southern California died Wednesday after he climbed into an unlocked car on a hot summer’s day and was trapped, police said.
The toddler was playing alone in the front yard of his house in Sylmar while his parents were home when he got into the car and couldn’t get out, said Officer Bruce Borihanh with the Los Angeles Police Department.
Police told CNN affiliate KABC that the boy’s father woke up from a nap and found the boy unresponsive. It was unclear how long the child was in the car, KABC reported.
“It highlights the importance … of not taking for granted where your kids are and what they might be doing,” Los Angeles police Lt. Paul Vernon said.
The toddler was rushed to the hospital, but was pronounced dead.
Police are investigating, but they do not suspect any foul play, Borihanh said.
While the case of a Georgia father accused of intentionally leaving his toddler son to die in a hot car has gripped the nation this summer, the heatstroke deaths of children left inside a car are not uncommon.
At least 19 have died this year alone, according to San Francisco State University. In 2013, the number was 44. And about 625 children in the United States have died this way since 1998.
“It’s reasonable to call this an epidemic,” says memory expert Dr. David Diamond, a scientist at the Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, who is often consulted on such cases. “It happens, on average, once a week from spring to early fall.”