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StarBulletin.com

Boy's death prompts investigation


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POSTED: Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Police are continuing to investigate how a 4-year-old Ewa Beach boy got into the trunk of a car where he was found unconscious and later died.

Police spokesman Maj. Clayton Kau also said police are looking into how long Brayden Mara-Villegas was in the trunk before he was found Saturday by a family member.

Sometime before 3:30 p.m., the boy went out to play while his mother cleaned the house, police said. When she could not find him, the child's uncle drove around the neighborhood in a 1993 Honda to look for him.

His uncle saw a warning light on the dashboard. When he went to check his tail lights, he found Mara-Villegas inside the trunk. The boy was taken to Hawaii Medical Center West, where he died.

“;When something like this happens, it just breaks our heart,”; said Janette Fennell, founder and president of Kids and Cars, a national nonprofit organization that focuses on child safety. “;This was devastating.”;

Autopsy results for Mara-Villegas are still pending, the Medical Examiner's Office said.

The temperature at 3 p.m. Saturday was 88 degrees in Kalaeloa, according to the National Weather Service.

Four children in Hawaii were reported to have died of vehicular hyperthermia between 1997 and 2007, according to the organization. The children ranged in age from 10 months to 3 years.

Fennell said 42 children died from vehicular hyperthermia in the country last year, and so far this year, 21 children have died.

Kids and Cars was instrumental in getting a law passed requiring all vehicles built in 2002 or later to include a trunk release that glows in the dark.

SAFETY TIPS

Here are some safety tips for children around cars:

» Never leave children unattended.

» Keep vehicles locked at all times.

» Install an after-market trunk release in your trunk.

» Keep keys or remote car openers away from children.

» Make sure the vehicle is unoccupied before locking it.

For more information, go to www.KidsAndCars.org.