'A tragedy': Heat likely killed York County boy found in closed car

Harper Ho
York Dispatch
A home in the 400 block of Blossom Drive in East Manchester Township, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, where a 4-year-old boy was found dead Tuesday inside a car according to the York County Coroner's Office. Bill Kalina photo

Authorities say a 4-year-old boy found dead inside a car this week was likely the victim of the heat, a tragic but far-too-common occurrence this time of year.

Family members found Dameon Erb unresponsive in a closed car parked at the boy's home in East Manchester Township, police said. A person at the home declined comment Thursday.

"Heat was probably a factor," said Northeastern Regional Police Chief Bryan Rizzo. "It was over 90 degrees when we were dispatched."

The boy's family looked for him after noticing he was missing from the home and premises, but it was too late, officials said. The boy had died at the scene, according to the York County Coroner's Office.

"Many times, children have the dexterity to enter a vehicle on their own, but then they become trapped inside because their tiny hands aren’t able to pull a door handle toward them and push outward at the same time," according to Kids and Car Safety, a national nonprofit child safety organization.

The temperature inside the vehicle could easily be as high as 120 degrees with Tuesday's heat, according to a written statement issued by the nonprofit, and this latest case would be the 13th death in Pennsylvania since the group began recording in 2016.

"It is a tragedy to see children and pets being victims of hot vehicles, whether it's accidental or neglect," Rizzo said. Children shouldn't have access to unlocked vehicles on hot days because they can potentially be stuck inside, he said.

"We all have to be cognizant," Rizzo added. "Because the heat can overtake them pretty quickly."

More:4-year-old boy found dead in a car in East Manchester Twp.: Coroner

More:Man masturbated at school bus stop in West York: Police

No charges had been filed as of Wednesday. An autopsy was scheduled Thursday at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, according to the coroner's office.

"We're still trying to determine if this was accidental or not," Rizzo said, adding that the family was shaken up and is cooperating.

"Hot car deaths continue to take place because nobody believes this could happen to them. The unfortunate reality is that this has happened to even the most loving, responsible and attentive parents," Janette Fennell, Pennsylvania resident and president of Kids and Car Safety, said in a news release.

Here are some safety measures offered by Kids and Car Safety:

  • Keep vehicles locked at all times, especially in the garage or driveway. Ask neighbors and visitors to do the same.
  • Never leave car keys within reach of children.
  • Use childproofing knob covers and door alarms to prevent children from exiting your home unnoticed.
  • Teach children to honk the horn or turn on hazard lights if they become trapped inside a car.
  • If a child is missing, immediately check the inside, floorboards and trunk of all vehicles in the area carefully, even if they’re locked.

— Reach Harper Ho at hho@yorkdispatch.com or Twitter at @howdyhoharper.

Please subscribe to support local journalists!