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She Was Our Gift from God': The Reoccurring Summertime Tragedy of Children Left to Die in Boiling Vehicles

"I want to tell everybody that I wish I was in that car seat, not her."

We hear the awful news every summer.

Little kids die in overheated vehicles, often strapped into their car seats, because adults leave them alone too long or forget they're even along for the ride.

This summer 15 children have died of heatstroke for those reasons. More than 500 have died since 1998; 73 percent of them were under the age of 2, the Huffington Post notes.

(Credit: YouTube)

Katie Luong is one of a growing list of devastated adults going through this; Luong recently left her 11-month-old daughter in a sweltering SUV. Ella and her family would have celebrated her first birthday Sunday; there will be a funeral for her instead.

(Credit: Facebook)

"I want to tell everybody that I wish I was in that car seat, not her," the weeping 31-year-old mother tells AL.com/The Birmingham News. "If I had to die for her to live, I would have done that."

More from AL.com:

Gabriella Gi-Ny Luong, known to family members as Ella, was discovered by her mother about 1:20 p.m. Wednesday, still strapped in her car seat in the locked Lexus parked outside the family's Genesis Nail Spa. The temperature outside was about 90 degrees; inside the car it was roughly 127 degrees, authorities said.

Ella was unresponsive. Efforts, first by a nearby business owner and then paramedics, to revive her were unsuccessful. They rushed her to Children's of Alabama hospital anyway, where the staff pronounced her dead a short time later.

Luong noted that her mind was overloaded that day, she was on her phone quite a bit, and she simply forgot her child was with her:

On Wednesday, Luong put a sleeping Ella in her car seat and started the 10-mile drive to work. She was supposed to drop her off at the babysitter's house at 9:30 a.m.

But her mind was on overload - filled with thoughts and worries of a friend and employee who just recently hanged himself in a closet, only to be found there a week later. There was also concern for a close family friend, who is like a father to her, still hospitalized after having a stroke.

And in the midst of her worry and grief, she was planning Ella's first birthday party, set for Sunday at Oak Mountain State Park. It was too much, Luong admits.

"I had an uneasy feeling,'' she said. "I told my mom I felt like something was going to happen." [...]

Unaware that she had left the baby inside the SUV, Luong went on with her day at work. When she arrived at the salon, she and her husband watched video on her cell phone from Ella dancing at their home the night before. "Music and dance was her passion,'' Luong said.It was about 1:15 p.m. when the babysitter called, and asked Luong if Ella was sick and that was why she hadn't shown up. It was then that the frantic parents realized what happened and found Ella unconscious in her car seat. "I want you to tell everybody I wish I was in that car seat,'' Luong said.

Instead of throwing the best-ever birthday party Sunday, the parents will bury their only child. The grieving mother said she can't even comprehend a life without Ella. She prays her faith will sustain her. "Without God, I am nothing,'' she said.

The Luongs are Christians and prayed for a baby before Ella was born. "I asked God for this baby,'' Luong told AL.com. "She was our gift from God."

The organization Kids and Cars features safety tips as well as detailed information on what can happen to children who're left in vehicles in hot weather, including heat stroke.

It also notes tragic statistics:

(Credit: Kids and Cars)

Red Castle Productions has created a PSA aimed at preventing more of these tragedies. The dramatic video shows it can take as little as 15 minutes for a child to suffer life-threatening injuries when left in a hot car with no ventilation. The PSA also shows what to do if you notice a child alone in a car:

Here's a news report on the Luong tragedy via WIAT-TV:

(H/T: HuffPo)



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Dave Urbanski

Dave Urbanski

Sr. Editor, News

Dave Urbanski is a senior editor for Blaze News.
@DaveVUrbanski →