MOORHEAD, Minn. (AP) — The father of a 5-year-old girl who died after being left in a hot minivan forgot about the infant while unloading five other young children out of the vehicle, Moorhead police said.
Police said Christiana Natany Sandstrom died after she was left in her car seat in the van for about four hours Tuesday afternoon, when temperatures were reported to be about 80 degrees.
The girl’s father, Andrew Sandstrom, called 911 when he realized what had happened.
“The father was caring for his children. There were a total of six under the age of 7 he was responsible for,” Moorhead Police Lt. Tory Jacobson said Wednesday. “Ultimately he forgot and left his youngest child in the car for an extended a period of time.”
Authorities arrived at the scene about 8:20 p.m. The first responder found that the infant girl had been moved to a nearby apartment and began administering CPR. However, the child was pronounced dead at the scene.
Jacobson said the investigation is ongoing.
“We’re respectful of the family that unfortunately is dealing with this large tragedy. The investigators are mindful of that and we’re trying to provide support there,” he said. “However, we also need to gain as much information as we can for the investigation.”
Jacobson said Andrew Sandstrom, 24, and his wife, Shayna Sandstrom, 27, would be interviewed separately about the incident but are “certainly in mourning over a tragic event.”
Police said Andrew Sandstrom dropped off his wife at work Tuesday afternoon and returned home to the couple’s apartment with his children. Jacobson said temperatures can heat up quickly inside a closed vehicle.
“When you have a vehicle that has the windows up, it allows the heat in and acts as an insulator,” he said. “This tragedy is one that unfortunately repeats itself across the country a handful of times a year.”
The police report said the family’s apartment has “extreme filth and was unsafe for the other children,” who were being cared for by Clay County Social Services.
“As far as the living conditions and the whole situation with the family, that’s certainly something social services will look into and they’ll ensure the children are in a safe environment,” Jacobson said. “They will assist us in the investigation and also provide some resources for the mental health of the children who need that right now after losing their little sister.”
Rhonda Porter, director of Clay County Social Services, said she can’t discuss specifics of the case but said her office will typically conduct a “child protection assessment” when investigating reports of neglect or abuse.
“When we go out based on a report, we’re always looking at all kinds of factors, whether there’s mental health or chemical health issues within the family or any other factors that might be contributing to the issues in that home,” she said. “It is certainly our role to assess that and get the family the services they need.”
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