HARTSVILLE, SC (WMBF) - A 13-month-old child died Thursday after being left alone in a car for several hours, and the child's father has been charged in connection with the incident, officials confirmed.
David Richard Gray III, 30, was booked Thursday night at the Darlington County Detention Center and charged with one count of unlawful neglect of a child, officials confirmed. He has since posted bond and been released, according to Sheriff Wayne Byrd.
Coroner Hardee confirmed 13-month-old Sophia Goyeneche-Gray died from hyperthermia, due to the extreme heat. The death was ruled accidental.
The child was left in a car outside of a Hartsville business where the father worked, stated Coroner Hardee.
When he arrived at work Thursday morning, co-workers say Gray rushed into the building, not realizing he left his daughter alone in the hot car.
"He'd bring her in often after daycare," said co-worker Kristin Bumgarner. "We all just loved her, sweetest little gigglie-butt ever."
Kristin Bumgarner spent many afternoons playing with Gray's daughter, in the shop where she and Gray work.
"His daughter is the best thing that happened to him," she said. "When she was born, his whole world stopped, and a whole new world opened up."
Bumgarner says that Gray and Sophia's mother are not married, but they have a great relationship and cared for their daughter together. Gray was responsible for picking the 13-month-old up from daycare.
"We're creatures of habit," Bumgarner said. "He's not used to taking her before work." On Thursday, co-workers say Gray was supposed to drop Sophia off at daycare before work.
"She was in the back," Bumgarner said. "He's got a pretty big pickup truck. He was just doing his normal routine and because she was so quiet, he didn't even think about it."
The high in Hartsville Thursday was 93 degrees, as the child sat alone in the back of Gray's vehicle, the heat intensified inside the car, which was parked in a lot with no shade.
"He didn't even take lunch," Bumgarner said. "And at 5:30 he thought, well gotta go pick the baby up. And when he walked out, that's when he found her."
Co-workers heard Gray screaming.
"He fought and fought and tried to do CPR to try and save her," Bumgarner said. "He fell to his knees when emergency responders got to her - begging God to take him instead. He loved that little girl - that was everything to him"
The details surrounding this case are currently under investigation. Coroner Hardee has asked for the assistance of the SLED Child Death Division and the assistance of the Hartsville City Police Department.