Broward County

Mom of 17-month-old who died in hot car thought she followed her routine. She didn’t.

The parking lot at a medical complex in the 2200 block of North University Drive in Pembroke Pines, where a 17-month-old boy died after being left in a car for about eight hours on Friday, July 13, 2018.
The parking lot at a medical complex in the 2200 block of North University Drive in Pembroke Pines, where a 17-month-old boy died after being left in a car for about eight hours on Friday, July 13, 2018. CBS Miami

The mother whose 17-month-old baby boy died in a broiling car Friday during her shift at a Pembroke Pines hospital didn’t exactly forget to take him out of the car, according to a DCF incident report.

Emily Bird forgot to drop Eli off at day care before she went to work at Memorial Hospital Pembroke.

“After finishing her day (Bird) proceeded to day care, where she believed she dropped him off that morning,” the report reads. “Upon being informed that Eli had never arrived at the facility, (Bird) began to realize what had occurred.

“(Bird) drove back to the hospital where she worked and medical staff began to administer resuscitation efforts. (Eli) was transferred to a larger hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.”

While there are no open DCF cases involving the family, the agency deployed its Critical Incident Rapid Response Team because there was a report involving the family within the previous 12 months. Emily Bird, 34, and Ian Bird, 35, have another child, a boy.

The account of the other incident, like the names of the family members, were redacted from DCF’’s incident report. Pembroke Pines police released the names Wednesday afternoon

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If Emily Bird’s explanation seems incredible, it actually fits the norm for child-in-hot-car cases. University of South Florida Dr. David Diamond, who got his Ph.D. in cognitive and neural sciences, explained this for The Washington Post in its Pulitzer Prize winning 2009 story on fatally forgetting a child.

“The quality of prior parental care seems to be irrelevant,” Diamond said. “The important factors that keep showing up involve a combination of stress, emotion, lack of sleep and change in routine, where the basal ganglia is trying to do what it’s supposed to do, and the conscious mind is too weakened to resist. What happens is that the memory circuits in a vulnerable hippocampus literally get overwritten, like with a computer program. Unless the memory circuit is rebooted — such as if the child cries, or, you know, if the wife mentions the child in the back — it can entirely disappear.”

Stress and a change in routine both are noted in one sentence of the DCF report:

“At the time of the incident, the family had been residing with friends while their house was being tented, and the mother, who had been under a lot of stress, was taking a different route to work.”

The 911 call a doctor made after Emily Bird discovered her 17-month-old son, Eli, had been in the car throughout her work shift after she forgot to drop him off at daycare.

According to KidsandCars.org, Florida’s 89 car heatstroke deaths ranked second since 1992 behind only Texas’ 120.

Police and fire departments advise double checking back seats for kids and pets each time you get out of the car. Some child advocate agencies advise always putting a briefcase, purse, clutch or any item you always take out of the car with you in the back seat with the child or pet.

Video captured outside an Indiana Walmart shows a police officer trying to get a baby out of a locked car in the store's parking lot. The 35-years-old mother was booked into jail without bond, the child was taken to the hospital.

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