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Everdeen Mason, The Plain Dealer

YORK TOWNSHIP, Ohio — It’s a scenario no one believes will happen to them: A child dying of heat stroke in a car. But it happens. Every summer.

Thursday, 2-year-old Justina Lyon died of probable heat exposure in a car, said Medina County Coroner Neil Grabenstetter. She would be the 32nd child in the nation to die this way in 2010, said Jan Null, author of a study on heat stroke deaths of children in vehicles.

Justina’s 3-year-old sister, Mary, who was also in the car, was in critical condition at MetroHealth Medical Center Friday evening. MetroHealth has the sisters listed as the McCormick’s. The family and neighbors could not be reached.

The sisters were found after they climbed into a neighbor’s car on Columbia Road. Children who gain access to unattended vehicles account for 30 percent of heat stroke deaths in cars, said Null, a San Francisco State University professor.

The girls’ 13-year-old sibling and 12-year-old friend were babysitting them while their parents were working a county fair booth. In the 9-1-1 tape, the children’s grandfather said they had been missing for hours. A neighbor found the girls in her car less than an hour after the call.

Medina County sheriff deputies are unsure how long the children were in the car, but it only takes 15 minutes for a vehicle’s temperature to rise to dangerous levels, said Dr. Tim Lee, an attending physician in Akron Children’s Hospital pediatric emergency room.

In that short time a car’s interior temperature can rise 40 degrees above outside temperatures, he said.

After getting into the car, the sisters may have become “deliriously lethargic” from the high heat, and been unable to escape, Lee said.

“Dealing with that heat, they may not have the reason to save themselves,” Lee said.

The doctor said he has not treated a case of heat stroke in a child trapped in a car, but said he sees plenty of heat stroke and exhaustion cases in Akron, especially when fall sports begin, he said.

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