A shameful story regarding a Pennsylvania assisted living facility / group home recently made headlines after staff left an autistic man in a hot van for five hours following a field trip sponsored by the facility.
Apparently the man was chaperoned to a local amusement park with staff from the Woods Services. When the group returned to the facility, one of the staff members escorted some of the other residents back to the living quarters while the other staff member parked the van. The staff member who parked the van forgot that the autistic man remained in the back seat.
By the time the staff located the autistic man in the van he was dead. According to the medical examiner, the man died from hyperthermia. The staff involved in the event have been suspended pending the results of the investigation in the incident currently underway by multiple investigative agencies.
Sadly, hyperthermia deaths related to people left in vehicles is more common than you think. Even relatively mild temperatures and bright sunlight can allow temperatures in vehicle to reach dangerous levels with short periods of time.
Hyperthermia can occur when the body is exposed to high temperatures and produces more heat than it can dissipate. The increased heat raises the body temperature disrupting normal body functioning. If not treated quickly after the initial onset, hyperthermia can result in disability and death.
Autistic man dies at Langhorne center after five hours in parked van, philly.com July 28, 2010