A 3-year-old Simi Valley boy and his 13-month-old brother died Saturday after being left for several hours inside a minivan with the windows rolled up in the family's driveway, police said.
The deaths appeared to be heat-related but an official cause won't be established until autopsies are performed today, authorities said. The older boy was identified by police as Jake Alexander Heath and his brother as Dylan Charles Heath.
"This is just absolutely tragic," Simi Valley Police Lt. Mike Brewer said.
Police said they are questioning the boys' mother, who may have fallen asleep in their home. No charges had been filed late Saturday.
According to Lt. John Ainsworth, the boys' mother, Marlene T. Heath, 39, had strapped the children into their safety seats in the Dodge minivan and began driving to Ventura for a company picnic when she changed her mind and returned to the family's house in the 2100 block of Ralston Avenue.
Heath parked and went inside, where she apparently fell asleep for three or four hours, authorities said. About 6:15 p.m. Heath awoke, ran outside and found the two boys in the van, Ainsworth said. She carried both children to a bedroom, where she tried to resuscitate them. Heath called her husband at the Westlake Village car dealership where he worked.
The husband, Phillip Heath, 43, called police.
"Living in Southern California, we all have to be cognizant of the temperature and its effect. It's surprising that with all of these incidents we see that people continue to be careless, leaving small kids in their cars," Ainsworth said.
The afternoon temperature Saturday reached 87 degrees.
According to neighbors, the Heaths had lived in the neighborhood about three years.
A neighbor said Heath regularly took walks with her sons in the neighborhood and was in good spirits a couple of weeks ago while attending a child's birthday party.
"She's a stay-at-home mom and she always seemed very nice to me," said the neighbor, who asked not to be identified.
In Southern California, this marks the fourth incident involving children left in vehicles this summer. On June 27 in Northridge, a police officer walking through a Vons lot saved two children, ages 7 weeks and 18 months, who were sweating inside a parked car.
The mother, Subha Sadaf, 21, was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment when she returned to the vehicle. She told police she had left the children in the vehicle while she shopped for groceries.
On June 29, a 3-year-old girl died in Rialto after her foster mother accidentally left her in a sweltering car, retrieving her about 20 minutes later. The mother was not arrested. On July 1, a 22-month-old girl died inside the family van in Desert Hot Springs.