BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Baton Rouge father is behind bars after he accidentally left his 8-month-old child in a car while he was at work Wednesday morning.
Experts say the tragedy is a sobering reminder to never leave children unattended in a car for any reason.
The incident is being called an accident, but 31-year-old Marvin Mercer, who works at Madison Prep, was arrested and charged with negligent homicide.
The nightmare continues to unfold for the Mercer family after their little angel, 8-month-old Raylee, died Wednesday afternoon after her father allegedly left her in the back seat of his car while he was at work. It was not until two hours later on his lunch break that Mercer realized he forgotten the small child.
"I know he's distraught because he loves his girls, he loves kids and he loves his wife. This is just a horrible accident," said Chanda Williams, the little girl's cousin.
Experts say it is an accident that could happen to anyone.
"A devoted parent can go to work and have their child in the back seat and forget that their child is in the back seat," said Melissa Steed, who is a regional child safety advocate. "They might get a phone call, go straight to work, park and leave and go into their office. It happens more than you know and it's very, very tragic when it does."
According to kidsandcars.org, each year 37 children die as a result of being left in a hot car. If you think leaving kids behind to run a quick errand is fine, then think again. The same website reveals most of the car's heating happens within the first 10 minutes.
"It's actually in the first seven minutes is when it starts," Steed said. "Ten minutes it's pretty much over with. You know a child will die in 10 minutes which is sad."
There are still a few weeks until the official first day of summer, but temperatures inside of a hot car are already dangerously high. Depending on the afternoon, they can reach well above 100 degrees.
"Your car is like an oven," said Lauren Standridge, owner of Baton Rouge Birth Services.
Her organization offers hangtags for cars. She said keeping some sort of reminder to check the back seat is vital.
"Put something in place there to make sure that you don't forget to stop by daycare or do whatever needs to happen to make sure that you don't forget your child because our memories fail us. We're just human and no one can be perfect 100 percent of the time," she added.
As the family copes with this devastating reality, Standridge hopes they will come together and remember that everyone makes mistakes.
"Be kind to yourself," she said. "I mean if it's a true accident, then there's no reason to continually beat yourself up for it. I know that it's hard. but we all fail at some point in life."
The tragic accident also happened on National Child Vehicular Heatstroke Prevention Day.