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Firefighter charged after death of his son left in truck for eight hours

Published 10/09/2016

Young Lawson was pronounced dead in hospital after he was left in a truck for eight hours
Young Lawson was pronounced dead in hospital after he was left in a truck for eight hours

A firefighter has been charged with aggravated manslaughter in connection with the death of his 23-month-old son who was left in a pick-up truck for eight hours.

Troy Whitaker, 41, of Palm Harbour, Florida, placed his son Lawson and five-year-old daughter in his pick-up truck on Friday morning and took the girl to school, said the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Whitaker then drove home without taking Lawson to day care and left him unattended inside the truck until about 3.30pm, when he drove to a nearby grocery store.

He did not notice Lawson was still in the back seat of the truck until an hour later when he got home and began unloading groceries, detectives said.

Whitaker, a Hillsborough County Fire Rescue firefighter, tried to revive Lawson after calling 911.

However Lawson was pronounced dead in hospital.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Lawson's body temperature had reached 108 degrees.

Whitaker told detectives that he thought he had dropped Lawson off at day care in the morning, said the sheriff's office.

Whitaker had driven home to study for an exam at the fire department, said Mr Gualtieri.

"You've got to be responsible for your kids. You can't leave them in a hot car and let their temperature get up to 108 degrees," said Mr Gualtieri.

"He did this with negligence and, under Florida law, that is child abuse. He has got to be responsible for his actions."

Witness Aaron Begay said he was mowing his lawn across the street from Whitaker's home when he heard the man screaming.

Mr Begay said he heard Whitaker crying: "I can't believe it, I can't believe it, I can't believe it."

He said Lawson's body was limp as his father pulled him from the truck and began CPR.

Whitaker had called 911, but Mr Begay said he had to pick up the phone because the father was inconsolable.

Whitaker was released from the Pinellas County jail on 50,000 dollars (£37,689) bond.


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