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‘Everyone Went In the House Except the Little Boy’: 3-Year-Old Dies In Hot Car After Being Left In Grandmother’s SUV; Uncle Discovers Body in Wendy’s Drive-Thru

The family of a Georgia toddler found dead in a car outside of a fast-food restaurant has spoken out, calling the tragedy an “accident.” The child’s mother believes that God “needed him more” than she did.

Kendrick Engram Jr., who was affectionately called Junior, was only three years old when he died after being left in a hot SUV on Sunday, June 26 for about two-and-a-half hours, according to Daily Mail.

The youth was spending time with his grandmother Cassandra Thomas and seven cousins and after being on the go all day, he fell asleep in the back of the car. 

The day was packed with Sunday service at church in the morning, and various weekend errands the grandmother had to make the rest of the afternoon. The family visited a few restaurants on Buena Vista Road and later went to the local Walmart on Victory Drive. 

They met Junior’s mother Yolanda Thomas at the Walmart where she worked around 3 p.m., in hopes to take advantage of a sale on girls’ clothes.

Mom said of the last time she saw her son alive, “He was in the buggy, and I said Junior get up, and he woke up and went back to sleep.”

After leaving the retail giant, the lot went home. When the kids were asked to exit the vehicle, Junior was in the third-row seat of a Nissan SUV still asleep. No one noticed he remained in the car as they shut the door and went into the grandmother’s house, around 5:30 p.m.

As hours passed, and around 8:15 p.m. the grandmother noticed Junior was missing when her daughter came by to bring him home.

While recalling the day, the devastated Thomas said in an interview, “When my daughter got off work, she called and said she was outside, and my grandbaby came and asked me where Junior was, and I told her he was supposed to be in the house asleep.” But he wasn’t.

In retracing her steps, she thought about the car, which was no longer in her possession. She had lent the car to her son so that he could make an ice cream run. 

By 8:30 p.m. the uncle was in the Wendy’s parking lot and saw the child in the back seat unresponsive.

Junior was pronounced dead a little after 9 p.m., with Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan reportedly saying the initial cause of death was asphyxiation from being left in the hot SUV.

According to the National Weather Service, the temperature that day was at its highest at 96 degrees and its lowest at 90 degrees.

Bryan said, “Everyone went in the house except the little boy.”

“The grandmother went into the bedroom,” he continued to explain. “The other children went into the kitchen area to eat. Then the children were in and out, playing … just like kids do.” 

The young boy’s death marks the second little one in Georgia to die while being in a hot vehicle this year, and the seventh one nationwide, according to USA Today. All of these deaths were accidental, like Junior’s.

Yolonda doesn’t blame her mother, saying, “I feel that it was an accident. It was just God probably needed him more than I did.”

While she doesn’t see fault, the law might. Some media reports indicate that police are deciding if anyone will face any charges related to Junior’s death.

In the interim, the family is planning a balloon release in honor of his life on Saturday, July 2, at 6 p.m. at Wendy’s on Wynnton Road.

The family has started a GoFundMe for his funeral and burial, describing him on the site as “energetic, loving, and full of life!” 

In death, he leaves to mourn his parents, Yolanda and Kendrick Engram Sr., and six sisters and brothers.

Bryan offers this advice to parents and caretakers of small children, “Just be aware. Just be aware. If you’re an adult, be responsible.” 

“The children are innocent,” Bryan continued. “They can’t help themselves and when you have a child that puts the responsibility on you.”

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