May 21, 2024

A sheriff’s deputy in San Antonio, Texas, was arrested and fired after leaving his 2-month-old baby in a hot car for about three hours on Monday, authorities said.

Antonio Almaraz, 31, was arrested shortly after the infant was rushed to the hospital, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office said, according to WOAI, an NBC News affiliate based in San Antonio.

The 2-month-old was found unresponsive inside the vehicle just after 1 p.m. local time and was taken to the hospital, where they remained in critical condition as of Tuesday, according to WOAI. The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

The National Weather Service in San Antonio posted a forecast with temperatures as high as 94 degrees for Monday, saying “mainly dry and warm conditions” were expected to prevail in the days ahead.

Deputies said Almaraz gave conflicting statements on what happened, WOAI reported. However, investigators said he had taken the child to a routine doctor’s appointment at around 9 a.m. local time before returning home just after 10 a.m. local time. They said he turned his vehicle off and went inside the home, leaving the baby behind, WOAI reported.

The sheriff’s office was informed of the incident at around 2 p.m. local time, when the hospital called to report it, according to WOAI.

Almaraz had been hired on Feb. 20 and was given an order of dismissal as he was still in his probationary period with the sheriff’s office, WOAI reported.

He is being charged with injury to child, abandoning a child with intent to return and endangering a child, WOAI reported.

“Given the amount of awareness in the community regarding leaving children unattended in vehicles, there is absolutely no valid excuse for this to have occurred,” Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said in a statement. “My family and I are praying for the best possibly outcome for this precious baby.”

Hot car deaths are the leading cause of non-crash-related vehicle fatalities among children in the U.S., with a vehicle’s temperature able to heat up by 40 degrees within just 30 minutes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

As many as around 40 children a year die from heatstroke because they were left or became trapped in a vehicle, according to the agency. “That’s about one child every 10 days killed in a hot car,” the NHTSA says on its website.

Over the past 25 years, more than 950 children are believed to have died from hot car deaths, according to the agency.

The majority of hot car deaths, 53%, happen because someone has forgotten a child in a hot car, the NHTSA says. About 46% of the times a child has been forgotten in a vehicle, the caregiver had meant to drop them off at a daycare or preschool, it states.

The Transportation Department has previously said the number of child hot car deaths went down in recent years, partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on the number of people working from home.

In 2020 and 2021, the annual numbers for hot car deaths involving children were 25 and 23, respectively, with each representing less than half the figure for 2019: 53. Last year, a total of 33 such deaths were reported, according to the NHTSA.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com


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