Children die in scorching heat

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Johannesburg - Two children suffocated to death while playing in an old unused car in Zeerust, North West.

With the doors locked and the car windows shut in the 36ºC blistering heat, there was no ventilation for Charlene and Neo Wilskut, cousins aged two and three. The incident happened in Henryville township.

North West police spokeswoman Colonel Emelda Setlhako said the parents of the children are siblings and live in the same house.

They had left the girls with their mother when they went to work on Saturday morning.

The woman was the first to return home at about 2pm.

When she asked her mother where the children were, the woman apparently told her that she had last seen them playing next to the yard.

She searched everywhere, but could not find them.

Some children playing next to the old car in the yard noticed that the girls were inside. They told the mother.

She rushed to the car and saw the motionless children.

Screaming, she tried to open the door but it did not budge. Her screams alerted neighbours, who came to see what was going on. A man smashed a window open to get the girls out.

As the girls’ relatives wailed, the neighbours poured cold water on the girls in the hope of waking them up because they thought they had only fainted.

The girls, however, did not stir.

“The little girls are believed to have got into the car at about 12.30pm and we got the call at about 2.30pm.

“When they were found, their skin was badly damaged due to the extreme sunburn they had suffered. It looks like they managed to open the door of the car, played inside and fell asleep,” Setlhako said.

There was no indication that the children had tried to get out and Setlhako believes they must have fallen asleep and died due to the extreme heat and lack of fresh air.

Zeerust Emergency Management Services officials declared them dead at the scene. An inquest has been opened.

* February 2003: A two-year-old girl died after being left in a locked car in the sun. Her caregiver is alleged to have left the child for about an hour to go shopping. When she returned, the child was dead. She started screaming and people ran to help and tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but it was too late.

* October 2006: Dr Andrew Wilkinson, a senior lecturer in electronic engineering at UCT, forgot his 17-month-old baby, Janosch, in the car when he went to work. He remembered about the boy a few hours later, but when he got to the car, Janosch was already dead.

* October 2011: Bergville brothers Phumelele, five, and Sfiso Ndaba, four, were found dead in a neighbour’s unused fridge. Community members had been looking for them for the whole day after they disappeared. They were found only the following day.

* October 2011: Andile Radebe, five, and Ntando Mahlase, three, were found dead after suffocating in a metal trunk in Soweto. Two other children who were in the trunk survived. It was not known how they ended up in the trunk.

botho.molosankwe@inl.co.za

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