NEW YORK: Twin babies died in the Bronx on Friday after their father left them in a parked car in the heat and went to work a full shift at a hospital, the police said.
The 39-year-old father, who was not immediately named, was taken into custody for questioning. He left the children inside the parked silver Honda Accord in the morning and reported for his job at the James J. Peters VA Medical Centre, the police said.
It was unclear why he left the babies - a 1-year-old boy and a girl - alone in the car. Hours later, he left his job, got in the car and drove a short distance before realising they were inside, the police said. He jumped out and screamed.
A passerby called police at about 4 pm Friday and said one of the babies appeared not to be breathing. When officers arrived, they discovered both infants were dead. They were identified as Mariza and Phoenix Rodriguez of Rockland County.
The car came to a stop at Kingsbridge Terrace and West Kingsbridge Road in the University Heights section of the Bronx.
On Friday evening, dozens of police officers and detectives were huddled around the car while curious people looked on from the sidewalks. Neighbours climbed out of their windows and onto their fire escapes to get a view. At 6.30 pm, crime scene detectives and medical examiners arrived.
During last week’s heat wave, the city’s Administration for Children’s Services issued a statement warning parents to be careful about leaving their children in cars, urging people to “look before you lock.”
Each year, an average of 38 children die of heatstroke after being left in locked cars, according to kidsandcars.org, a nonprofit focused on preventing death and injury to children and pets from vehicles. The organization’s website listed 21 deaths this year, as of July 16.
Even as the police were investigating, a memorial began to take shape at the intersection. Someone had lit four prayer candles on the curb, not far from the car.
People who live nearby expressed anger as the story of what happened spread.
“Accident or not, these kids didn’t deserve this,” Frank Jimenez, 39, said. “I’m angry. No matter what happened, those kids were innocent. Whether you’re the father, stepfather or even on drugs, no matter what, you look after your children.”
William Gonzalez, 70, a former bus driver, said he was frustrated with himself for not having noticed the children in the car. He said he sometimes checks cars on the block for people and pets, but did not on Friday.
“This is wrong,” he said. “Even a taxi driver checks the car for belongings that may have been left behind.”