x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 November 2017

Oman sees rise in child suffocation deaths in vehicles

Health professionals say just a few minutes left alone in a locked car can be enough to cause the death of a young child

Six children have died of suffocation in Oman this year after being left in locked vehicles, police say.

The latest incident was on Thursday last week (November 2) when an Omani man in Muscat forgot his two-year-old son in the car outside his home.

Last year, five children — all under the age of four — died in the same circumstances, an increase from four children in 2015.

According to the authorities, in every case the child died after inhaling poisonous carbon monoxide gas — caused by a lack of oxygen in the vehicle — and it was their parents who left them unattended.

“Eighteen per cent of children are knowingly left in the car, while the rest are forgotten in the vehicle by the driver or parents,” the police said in a statement last week.

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Read more:

How 20 minutes can be fatal for children locked in cars

Two children die after suffocating in father’s car during mid-afternoon heat

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Indian Mohammed Doohani, 27, a Muscat resident, said his three-year-old nephew was found dead in a locked car in the capital in February last year. The boy's father had forgotten about him and left him behind in the vehicle.

“It was less than 15 minutes, and he was already dead by the time we found him inside the car,” Mr Doohani told The National. “Obviously, he died of lack of oxygen because the doctor said he was struggling for air before he passed away.”

Seventeen children have been rescued from locked cars so far this year with most of them needing medical care for heat exhaustion or dehydration, police statistics show. Last year, 14 were rescued.

"These children were rescued by either family members or neighbours who heard noises coming from the cars. In some cases, they were locked in vehicles in car parks outside supermarkets while their parents were shopping. Fellow drivers raised the alarm to the management," a police spokesman told The National.

But there are many more cases of unreported near misses.

“It was just a few weeks ago when I returned home but forgot my 18-month-old daughter in the baby seat and went inside the house. My concentration was consumed by a telephone conversation after someone called me as I was arriving home,” Zahra Al Manji, 28, a computer programmer said.

The phone conversation lasted about three minutes and Mrs Manji then remembered about her daughter when she saw a milk bottle in her other hand.

“I rushed out and found her red in the face and her clothes were drenched in sweat. She was gasping for breath. I rushed her to the hospital and the doctor told me just one more minute and she would have been dead,” Mrs Al Manji told The National.

Health professionals say just a few minutes left alone in a locked car can be enough to cause the death of a young child.

“The temperature of a locked car can go beyond 100°C in just 10 minutes but a baby can die of suffocation within five minutes," said Yasmin Lahore, a paediatrician at the Rostaq Hospital. "Sometimes, carbon monoxide is trapped inside the car during the driving period and the child breathes it when the engine is off and the car is locked.”