Walker County sheriff Steve Wilson says that “miscommunication” between three adults is the reason an 11-month-old boy was left in a car where he died from hyperthermia.
Infant Jaxon Taylor was alone for at least two hours inside a vehicle where the temperature soared to between 130-170 degrees.
The incident happened Saturday, Sept. 5, in the 900 block of Kensington Road in Chickamauga.
Autopsy results show the toddler died from hyperthermia (heat stroke).
The investigation is continuing, Wilson said. Toxicology and other test results will take up to six weeks to receive confirmation from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime laboratory, he said.
“I do not think for one second that they (the three adults — two grandparents and their daughter) did this on purpose,” Wilson said Tuesday. “There is nothing to indicate that at this time.”
The grandparents, Kyle and Meta Hendershot, had returned home from church at about 2 p.m. They, an adult daughter and one grandchild got out of the vehicle, an SUV, but the infant was left behind.
At least two hours later, the mother — who works a night shift and had been sleeping inside the residence — awakened and asked where the child was. At this point the grandparents realized the child was not in the house.
Upon finding the child in the vehicle, the mother began CPR while a call to the 911 emergency center was made at 5:21 p.m.
Law enforcement and emergency services arrived, and medics continued CPR during a race to Hutcheson hospital where the little boy was pronounced dead.
While the outside air temperature reached 88-90 degrees that afternoon with 48 percent humidity; temperature in a closed vehicle can reach as high as 131-172 degrees in as little as 15 minutes.
Interviews with the family and neighbors will continue after the funeral services are concluded, Wilson said.
Wilson said the grandparents, both in their early 50s, and their 19-year-old daughter, exited the vehicle. A 16-month-old toddler was removed from the vehicle as well.
Miscommunication is believed at this time to be the reason the 11-month-old was left behind, Wilson said. The 16-month-old’s removal is believed to indicate that the child’s death was an accident, he said, but that has yet to be determined.
Wilson said psychologists discuss how people’s minds can become distracted and narrowly-focused, something that can lead to tragic situations. People are too easily distracted by something, whether it is a cell phone, radio, and so on, Wilson said.
Wilson said the 11-month-old was asleep when the family returned from church. The three adults apparently believed one of them had taken the sleeping child from the vehicle and laid him down inside the home, he said.
The sheriff said that nationwide this year, 19 children have died as the result of being left inside a vehicle in hot weather. This is fewer than the 31 such fatalities recorded in 2014, he said. Wilson attributes the decrease to people becoming more educated about the issue.
Wilson cited Georgia’s first lady Sandra Deal and the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning’s “Look Again” safety video to remind parents, caregivers and the public about the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles.
Details from the incident report
According to Walker County Sheriff’s Department reports:
On Saturday, Sept. 5, about 5:20 p.m., a deputy was dispatched to the 900 block of Kensington Road in Chickamauga to a CPR in progress of a juvenile.
When the deputy arrived, emergency responders were attending to Jaxon Taylor in the back of the ambulance. A short time later, the infant was transported to Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe.
The mother, Amanda Hendershot, told the deputy that her parents, Kyle and Meta Hendershot, had left her son in the back of the 2007 Mazda SUV for about two hours. It was later determined to have been about three hours.
Amanda told the deputy she works third shift at Hutcheson Medical Center and she was home asleep when her parents took her son, Jaxon, and another grandchild to church that morning.
She said the grandparents usually keep her son until she wakes up, or they bring the child to her while she is asleep.
She said she awoke around 4:45 p.m. and her son was not in his crib. She said she went ahead and got ready for work, assuming the child was with her parents.
She went downstairs to her parent’s bedroom around 5:15 p.m. to breastfeed her son.
The grandparents have a small crib for their grandson in the bedroom.
When the mother asked where her son was, Kyle immediately jumped up and ran out of the front door.
Amanda and Kyle went to the vehicle and removed the child from the car seat.
The child was not breathing and felt warm to the touch, Amanda said.
They took the child inside and placed him in a tub of cool water and began CPR.
The infant did not respond to the CPR and then she called 911 and continued with the CPR.
The child was later transported to the hospital for further treatment.
When interviewing Kyle, he told authorities the family returned from church around 2 p.m.
The 16-month-old child’s parents were already at the residence waiting to pick up their daughter.
Kyle got out and began to remove items from the back of the vehicle and took them inside the house. He then took the family dog for a walk. The 16-month-old’s parents soon left with their daughter, once Kyle was finished walking the dog.
Kyle and his wife, Meta, then laid down for a nap.
Kyle estimated the time of walking the dog to the time the 16-month-old’s parents leaving the house was about 15 minutes. Kyle said he believed, at that time, someone else had removed Jaxon from the vehicle.
The grandmother, Meta, told authorities when they arrived home, she opened the rear door where Jaxon was seated and then went to retrieve the mail. She then went into the house and unloaded the children’s snack bag.
Meta said she then went to lie down for a nap, believing someone else had gotten Jaxon out of the vehicle.
She told the deputy that Kyle was driving the vehicle, she was in the front passenger seat, the 19-year-old daughter (Kylie Hendershot) was in the passenger seat on the driver’s side, the 16-month-old was in the center rear seat, and Jaxon was in the rear seat on the passenger’s side.
Meta said she believed the passenger rear door, that she opened where Jaxon was seated, had slammed shut as she walked into the house.
Meta said that once Amanda awoke her from her nap, she asked Amanda what she was doing, to which she said she was looking for Jaxon. This is when, Meta said, she realized Jaxon was still in the vehicle.
The parents of the 16-month-old were interviewed and said they were waiting for the family’s return from church. They were there for about 15 minutes before they left with their daughter and they did not know or realize Jaxon had not been removed from the vehicle.