Forgotten child is latest to suffocate inside vehicle

national June 20, 2018 01:00

By KRITMET LOHO
THE NATION

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THE TRAGEDY of a five-year-old child who died after being accidentally left in a locked pickup truck in sweltering heat at a northeastern school, is the eighth such fatality since 2012.



Kindergarten pupil Kabinta “Nong Yam” Kehphuang died by suffocation and hyperthermia after being left for eight hours in the front of a locked pick-up truck with all the windows shut in the hot sun. The incident has left her teacher, Phichitra Sudtana, 32, in shock, said Phupha Man district chief Phayung Lekdee. 

Police have charged the teacher with committing a reckless act resulting in another person's death.

Phichitra has since been bailed and admitted to Khon Kaen Rajanagarindra Psychiatric Hospital over the shock of Kabinta’s death, whom she reportedly “loved as her own child”, according to Tambon Huai Moung Adminsitrative Organisation clerk Pongsak Khamkuna. 

He said the kindergarten’s three teachers and one caretaker normally checked on pupils but none questioned her whereabouts or looked for her on Monday, until she was found dead.

Phichitra collected Kabinta from her home in the morning to take her to school along with five other children because the kindergarten’s bus was out of order. 

Kabinta sat in the front passenger seat while the other children sat in the bed of the truck along with a caretaker. However, Phichitra forgot the child was there when she arrived at the school and locked her truck at 7.30am. She assumed the girl would get out of the pickup by herself and got distracted after taking the five others pupils to class, according to deputy superintendent Pol Lt Colonel Sombat Wongwicha. 

Phichitra only remembered the child was still in the vehicle when she returned to it after classes finished at 3.30pm and found the girl’s lifeless body. 

The deceased girl’s grief-stricken mother Kalaya Noikaew, 57, went to the police to give them additional information yesterday.

The district chief has ordered 13 kindergartens in the area to strictly check on pupils at the beginning and end of classes to prevent a recurrence – but this is not the first time it’s happened. 

According to the Disease Control Department's Bureau of Non Communicable Diseases, 13 children aged between three and four, were left in locked vehicles for more than six hours on separate occasions between 2012 and 2016. Five cases involved a school bus and one a personal car.

The incidents led to six deaths while seven children were saved in time. 

From 2017 to 2018, the number of children left in locked vehicles, or accidentally locking themselves in, rose to 34 but all were saved in time, except for six-year-old Chanachai “Nong Kaka” Khongpol, who was left in a school truck in Ayuthaya in August 2017, and died of suffocation. 

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