A father whose three-year-old son died when he was accidentally left in a hot car has issued a powerful message to others warning of the dangers of forgotten baby syndrome.
Newaz Hasan bundled his two sons into his car in Sydney’s west on February 2 for the morning school run, dropping his eldest at primary school and believing he had dropped his youngest to daycare before returning to their Glenfield home to work.
But when he returned to his car in the afternoon to pick the boys up, he made a shocking discovery: his youngest son, Arikh, was still strapped in the back seat.
Arikh had spent six hours stuck in the scorching car on the 35C day while the vehicle was parked in the driveway.
Mr Hasan rushed his unconscious toddler into a nearby store and desperately began CPR until paramedics arrived, but despite their best efforts, it was already too late.
Now, Mr Hasan – who was never charged with any offence – has issued a timely warning to other Australians, with NSW, inland South Australia and southern Queensland forecast to bear the brunt of sweltering temperatures on Saturday.
Temperatures in Sydney are set to hit 44C, 37C in Canberra, 36C in Adelaide and 31C and in Brisbane.
Arikh Hasan (pictured) tragically died in February after accidentally being left in the back of a car. He was three-years-old
Mr Hasan is seen being comforted at the scene of the tragedy in February. He and other bystanders tried to save the boy’s life – but it was too late
‘Hot weather can turn a family upside down like mine,’ he said. ‘I am nervous and worried.
‘I love my kids like any parents do. Kids’ safety is always my top priority.
‘Before February, if anyone had shared with me what I am sharing with you today, I would have a family now as happy as yours.’
Mr Hasan said ‘forgotten baby syndrome’ refers to accidentally leaving a baby or young child inside a locked car, often with tragic results.
Causes include sleep deprivation, stress, change of routine, burnout and fatigue, distractions, changing caregivers or workhours, running late, alternating cars, anxiety and depression or feeling unwell.
The best way to prevent forgotten baby syndrome, parents and carers are advised, is to manage stress and adopt good sleeping behaviour, avoid phone calls while driving, hold yourself accountable for your child’s safety and always check the front and back seats before leaving the vehicle.
The Hasan family are pictured together during happier times
Police tape around the car in Glenfield after Arikh was discovered in the back seat
Other safety tips include making it a habit to open the back door every time you park, leaving the baby bag in the front passenger’s seat and placing the baby’s car seat in the middle of the back seat.
Parents can also request their childcare provider call if the baby has not been dropped off, be extra alert if your routine changes, keep a stuffed animal in the car, or installing and using prevention devices.
Mr Hasan said between February and August this year, 16 children died after being left in hot cars across the United States – leaving their families grief-stricken like his.
Psychology professor David Diamond says ‘forgotten baby syndrome’ is not a problem of negligence, but rather memory.
‘The most common response is that only bad or negligent parents forget kids in cars,’ he told Consumer Reports. ‘It’s a matter of circumstances. It can happen to everyone.’
According to Dr Diamond’s research, disruption of routine – such as holidays typical around summer – is a common factor among these tragedies.
At the time of Arikh’s death, Mr Hasan told media his little boy was asleep in the car that day and was not chatting to him during the car trip as he usually would.
He believes the silence made him forget his son was there.
Pictured above is an information poster shared by Mr Hasan to raise awareness about forgotten baby syndrome
After dropping his eldest son, six, off to school, Mr Hasan forgot to take Arikh to daycare and instead drove back to the house, parked in the driveway, then went back inside to work.
In the afternoon, he returned to the car – failing to see his youngest son still in the back behind the driver’s seat – and went to pick up his eldest child.
It wasn’t until he had collected his eldest son and returned to the car that he realised his deadly mistake. However, the incident is far from an isolated case.
More than 5000 children are rescued from unattended cars in Australia each year and at least 10 cases over the past five years have been fatal.
In January 2023, just one month before little Arikh’s death, the NRMA rescued 213 children from hot cars across NSW and the ACT.
NRMA spokesperson Peter Khoury said temperatures in cars doubled compared to outside, meaning figures around the high 30s or 40s could quickly prove fatal.
‘It’s highly dangerous all year round, regardless of the weather,’ Mr Khoury said. ‘But it’s particularly dangerous during Australian summers.
‘That is clearly no place for a child, even for a few minutes.
‘It doesn’t take long for children to become severely dehydrated before organ failure sets in, followed by potentially catastrophic consequences.’