The deaths of four children in hot cars within one week this month have brought new attention to the tragedy and the support available for families.
It’s a tragedy the Crapo family knows too well. On a Sunday afternoon in the summer of 2019, Elizabeth and Austin Crapo and their five children returned home from church. The family had lunch and then laid down for a nap.
Shortly later, the family realized the youngest child, Marah, was still inside the van. CPR attempts were made but Marah passed away.
Her death was investigated and ruled an accident. However, the family’s tragedy made headlines and harsh judgment from strangers ensued.
“I failed in my job as a protector. I failed my child,” Austin Crapo said. “I promise you nobody could make me feel worse.”
“Every parent has made mistakes, no matter what it looks like. Sadly, some of the mistakes result in tragedy and none of us expect it,” Elizabeth Crapo added. “And all of a sudden, you’re part of this club no one wants to be part of.”
The Crapo family has found empathy and healing with other families who have lost loved ones through the nonprofit support group SRVIVRS.
They are honoring their daughter through acts of service, like delivering gift baskets to the first responders who came to their house that day.
Meanwhile, other parents who experienced similar tragedies are sharing their stories online through the Kids and Car Safety website.
“Parents are putting themselves out there, know that they’re going to be judged. But reading a real story is a very powerful thing for people,” pointed out Amber Rollins, the director of Kids and Car Safety.
Rollins supports families that suffered these tragedies. She’s also helping them advocate for technology that can detect a child in the back seat of a vehicle.
Parents recently sent a letter to Pete Buttigieg, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, urging the department to move forward with the hot car provision that passed in the infrastructure bill last year.
They want to make sure the most effective technology is mandated, so they don’t lose more children. Children like 2-year-old Thomas. His father wrote about the events the day he went to work and forgot his son was in the back seat. His father wrote about how the rear seat reminder in his track failed to protect his son.
After record-high deaths in 2018 and 2019, the number of children dying in hot vehicles dropped off significantly during the pandemic with people staying home. However, Rollins pointed out these deaths have still trended up over the last 30 years.
So far, at least 18 children have died in hot vehicles in 2022, with two other incidents under investigation. Four deaths happened within a week’s time this month. Rollins is concerned things like hybrid work schedules and the constant shifting of people’s daily routines will make that number increase again.