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Baby Jadon Cudjoe survived the sweltering mid-morning heat in the back of a relative’s car for almost two hours on Tuesday before he eventually died. This was the opinion yesterday of Dr Valery Alexandrov, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on the 17-month-old baby at the Forensic Science Centre, St James. According to an official post-mortem prepared by Alexandrov, Cudjoe death was caused by hyperthermia.
In a telephone interview, Alexandrov said he had encountered difficulties in confirming the child’s time of death but used his experience to estimate that Cudjoe survived for almost an hour-an-a-half after being locked in his relative’s vehicle at a Petrotrin compound, Penal. “I may have dealt with a dozen or 15 cases of hyperthermia during my career. It does not happen very often,” Alexandrov said.
He explained that people who die as a result of the condition suffer a number of symptoms caused by extreme heat conditions, which are a result of the increase in concentration of minerals in the body caused by dehydration. Alexandrov said as the young victim continued to lose water on Tuesday, the compound in the body that regulates breathing would be converted to those that would cause paralysis of the muscles that assist in breathing. He said the victim would have then become drowsy and slowly lost consciousness.
“That would explain why the baby could not scream and cry out for help,” Alexandrov said. He also explained that because the baby was trapped in a car, he would have been exposed to temperatures close to 50 degrees. “My point is regardless of the temperature outside the car, inside would be 15 degrees higher,” Alexandrov said. He said infants and the elderly were especially suseptible to extreme temperatures, while noting that most victims of heat waves in temperate countries were the elderly.
The baby’s father and mother were accompanied by relatives to the centre to identify the child’s body yesterday. They both wept uncontrollably as they were consoled by relatives as they left the centre after the autopsy. The child’s father, Fergus Cudjoe, attempted to address reporters about his child’s death but he broke down before he even began and was led to an awaiting vehicle. Fergus’s uncle, Reynold Daniel, spoke briefly with media personnel and said that the family needed space and time to grieve.
“The father is in a mess, he can’t say anything. Everyone just trying to deal with this right now,” Daniel said. He also claimed that relatives were supporting the baby’s 53-year-old relative, who remained detained by police investigating the case up to last night. “We not looking to blame anybody,” Daniel said. A police source said yesterday that the relative would more than likely be released from custody later this week once investigators rule that the child’s death was accidental.
According to police reports, the man picked up the child on his way to work just before 7 am on Tuesday. He was supposed to drop the child off at the babysitter. The man reportedly strapped the child in a car seat in the backseat of his car and set off to drop him to the babysitter before going on to work. Police believe the child fell asleep in the backseat and the man forgot to drop him off and instead went straight to work where he locked up his vehicle and headed to the worksite.
The man then reportedly worked all day still unaware he had locked the child in the car. It was only after 4 pm when he finished work and returned to the car that he realised the child was still in the vehicle.