The 1-year-old boy who died Wednesday after being found unresponsive at the Swan Lake-Iris Gardens apartments died from being in a hot car, the Sumter County Coroner said in a preliminary finding.
His mother, Latisha Nicole Rembert, 24, was charged Thursday evening with homicide by child abuse/neglect, Sumter Police said. The woman left “Mekhi in a vehicle parked at a location in the county before driving to Swan Lake,” a news release stated.
The official cause of death of the child was hyperthermia, Coroner Robert Baker said. A final determination won’t be made until toxicology test results come back from the State Law Enforcement Division, he said. That usually takes between five and eight weeks.
In severe hyperthermia, the body’s normal system of regulating body heat – such as sweating – breaks down and cannot handle the heat in the environment.
Mehki Rembert was the 24th pediatric vehicular heatstroke death nationwide this year, and the first in South Carolina, said Jan Null, a research meteorologist at San Jose State University who follows fatal pediatric vehicular heatstroke statistics.
The last similar death in South Carolina was in 2015 when four-year-old Amir Sarcuar-Savar-Savour was discovered dead in a closed car at 1212 Metze Road in Richland County.
The high temperature in Sumter on Wednesday was 91 degrees at Shaw Air Force Base, according to Whitney Smith, a meteorologist with the Columbia office of the National Weather Service.
According to San Francisco State University’s Department of Geosciences, after 10 minutes, 90 degrees outside will feel like 109 degrees inside a car. After an hour, that jumps to 133 degrees.
Baker said he could not determine how long the child was left in the hot vehicle; he has gotten conflicting reports.
Police were called to the Sumter apartment complex at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday. They tried to revive the child, Sumter police said in a news release. He was taken to Palmetto Health Tuomey Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Rembert was being held without bond at the Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center.