Sleep-deprived mum Emma Lane mistakenly thought she’d brought all her three children in from her car after a busy morning on a hot February day in 2016.
Nine-month-old Hugh, her ‘false memory’ told her, was safely resting in his cot.
It was about two hours later, when it was time to take her daughter to ballet, that she went to wake Hugh – but he wasn’t there.
Her worst fears dawning, the frantic mother ran screaming for help down the driveway only to find her baby still in the car severely distressed by the heat.
He died in hospital four days later.
Victorian mother, Emma Lane, mistakenly left her nine-month-old son Hugh in the car on a hot day in February last year, she realised after two hours but he died in hospital four days later (file picture)
On Thursday State Coroner judge Sara Hinchey told an inquest into Hugh’s death that ‘there is no one to blame. It is simply a tragic accident’.
The Mount Martha mum was juggling three children under the age of five as well as her part-time job as a radiographer.
She’d arrived home with her children at lunch time after taking them to kindergartens and swimming lessons.
After unbuckling and settling inside the house with her other two children, she returned to the car to collect wet towels from the boot, and went back inside, breaking her usual habit of taking all three together.
‘At this time, Emma believed she had put him in his cot,’ counsel assisting the coroner, Jodie Burns said.
But ‘it then occurred to her that Hugh may still be in the car’, Ms Burns said.
‘She screamed out for help – she was beside herself.’
A neighbour called an ambulance as Ms Lane tried to cool the boy with frozen peas, wet towels and a fan.
Hugh suffered multiple organ injuries and had worsening cerebral swelling. His life support was switched off four days later.
The inquest was told the boy’s death was the result of a sleep-deprived mum with too much on her plate.
An inquest into was told on Thursday ‘there is no one to blame. It is simply a tragic accident’
‘There is no evidence to suggest anything other than Emma forgot Hugh was still in the car,’ Ms Burns said.
She brought up the psychological phenomenon of a ‘false memory’ – when someone believes something that never happened.
She also said a person’s short-term memory can only hold so much, and if overloaded, things fall out.
Judge Hinchey hoped other parents would take note and do all they could to prevent such tragedies.
‘They are fallible and they are under extreme stress, and must be aware of this fatal distraction problem,’ Judge Hinchey said.
The coroner will deliver her findings at a later date.