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Montreal mom speaks out about infant son’s tragic death 4 years ago

Click to play video: 'Kids in hot cars: How long does it take before it becomes deadly?' Kids in hot cars: How long does it take before it becomes deadly?
On a hot day, it can take as little as one hour for the interior of a car to get hot enough to be deadly for a two-year-old child. Disclaimer: Demo only, no children were at risk during filming – Jun 4, 2019

It’s been close to four years since Anaïs Perlot’s life was forever changed.

On June 22, 2018, her six-month-old son Cassius died after being left inside a vehicle most of the day. It happened on a Friday.

To Perlot, it seems like it was just yesterday and yet at the same time she says it feels like a lifetime ago.

It was a 911 call that was placed around 5:35 p.m. on that day that alerted police to the tragedy.

Police say the call was made after Cassius’ father showed up to his son’s daycare and staff informed him the child was not brought in that day.

The baby was found nearby in the father’s vehicle.

At the time, police said the father’s first reaction was to go check in his vehicle where he found his son unconscious.

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Read more: Baby dies inside vehicle after father forgets to drop him off at Montreal daycare

The baby had been inside the vehicle since that morning.

According to police, Cassius’ father had gone straight to work, forgetting that his son was in the backseat.

A coroner looking into the incident deemed the death accidental in a report from January 2021.

Mourning the loss of her son

Perlot said what followed was a “traumatic grieving period.”

“Nothing else than surviving was on my mind,” Perlot said in an interview this week, recalling how it was a daily struggle.

“How can I face that and not be angry at life?” she asked. “How can I find the strength to still be me, to still enjoy life, to still teach my daughter that life is worth living?”

Perlot said she is no longer in a relationship with Cassius’ father, but that they do co-parent their daughter.

It’s only now, with time and a lot of hard work that Perlot says she has started feeling better.

And while the upcoming anniversary of Cassius’ death stirs up painful memories, Perlot feels she’s finally ready to speak out.

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She is trying to raise awareness about the issue of children being left in vehicles in the hopes of maybe helping others avoid experiencing a similar tragedy.

I could not stand discovering on the news that, you know, another baby has lost this life,” she said.

What happened to Perlot’s son is rare, but there are recorded cases.

A study first published in Paediatric Child & Health in 2019 and available on the National Library of Medicine website states that on average, 37 children die of hyperthermia inside parked vehicles every year in the United States. Such data is not published in Canada.

Heatstroke or hyperthermia happens when a body overheats and loses its ability to cool down.

Children are especially vulnerable because their thermoregulatory systems aren’t as efficient as an adult’s. According to the No Heat Stroke website, kid’s body temperatures warm up at rate three to five times faster than an adult’s.

Read more: Here’s what happens to your body when you’re left in a hot car

The Paediatric Child & Health study notes that the majority of incidents or 55 per cent are due to caregivers forgetting the child while 13 per cent of cases arise after kids are intentionally left unattended inside a vehicle. Another 28 per cent occur when kids climb into unlocked vehicles. The cause of the remaining four per cent is unknown.

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Prevention

Perlot still has a lot of questions about exactly what happened the day her son died.

She thinks maybe a directive making it mandatory for daycares to alert parents when their child is absent — as they do in schools — could be a step in the right direction.

It was one of the recommendations contained in the coroner’s report into Cassius’ death.

Coroner Julie Blondin suggested the Ministry of Families work with daycare service providers to put in place a system for managing attendance and absences in a bid to quickly alert parents if a child is absent.

In an emailed statement to Global News, a spokesperson for the Quebec Ministry of Families said that unlike school where attendance is compulsory with a fixed schedule, child-care services are determined by the parents’ daily needs.

“It is the parent who determines the hours of attendance and the time of arrival of their child,” communications director Bryan St-Louis wrote in French. “It is therefore up to the parent to notify the service provider as soon as possible of the absence of their child in accordance with the service agreement that they have previously concluded with the provider.”

St-Louis, however, said the ministry strives to ensure daycare providers are aware of best practices and raise awareness surrounding children left inside vehicles via information bulletins.

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Read more: Forgotten babies in cars: Quebec coroner’s report says it could be avoided

For it’s part, the No Heat Stroke website suggests making “look before you leave” part of your routine whenever you get out of the car.

Technological solutions are also being developed by automakers to warn drivers when a child remains in the vehicle’s back seat and the driver is about to leave the vehicle.

In her report, Blondin also said if outfitting new vehicles with such systems isn’t feasible, Transport Canada could study the possibility of developing new safety standards to equip child car seats with a safety device to detect children left unattended in a vehicle. She pointed to such a system being used in Italy.

Transport Canada told Global News that the safety of all road users remains a priority.

“The department is working with all levels of government and partners in the industry to implement safety measures to strengthen and improve road safety and mitigate the risks for all Canadians,” Transport Canada spokesperson Hicham Ayoun wrote.

He said the department was already looking into the issue of caregivers forgetting children in vehicles prior to Blondin’s report.

“Transport Canada is aware that some manufacturers offer systems that allow, among other things, to warn the driver when a child remains in the vehicle’s back seat when the driver is about to leave the vehicle,” Ayoun continued.

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“The department analyzed the availability of some of these detection systems that give an alert if a child is left unattended in a vehicle. According to our observations, to date, no sensor is perfectly effective at performing this task flawlessly.”

Ayoun said that ultimately it is the parent or caregiver’s responsibility to ensure the well-being of children.

That’s a message Perlot wants to get across, especially as summer approaches. She wants parents to be on high alert.

“For parents to be vigilant and if anyone feels like they’re not capable of looking after a kid, that’s a parent’s responsibility to find another way.”

— with files from Global News’ Anne Leclair, Kalina Laframboise and Gloria Henriquez

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