There’s shock and sadness in a Burnaby neighbourhood, after a toddler was left in a hot car for several hours and died.

“It’s terrible, it’s terrible,” says neighbour Jeremy Yang.  “As a parent, my heart goes out with the family. I can’t imagine, I really can’t imagine.”

Emergency crews responded to reports of an unconscious 16-month-old in a car near Kingsway and Central Park around 5:40 p.m. Thursday.

The little boy was rushed to hospital but didn’t make it.

“It’s tragic, it’s horrible — there’s no words to describe what anybody would be feeling right now,” says Chief Supt. Deanne Burleigh of the Burnaby RCMP.

“Any of the first responders, any of the people at hospital, any of the family. It’s absolutely tragic.”

Police are interviewing witnesses to determine just how long the child was in the car, on a day when temperature records were broken on parts of the Lower Mainland.

Sources say it could have been up to nine hours. But experts warn that just 20 minutes can be deadly.

When CHEK News did a hot car experiment two years ago to illustrate the dangers of leaving children and pets in cars, it was only 21 degrees outside.

But in just five minutes, it was almost 50 Celsius inside the vehicle.

After 10 minutes, the phone being used to record the experiment shut off because it was too hot.

Sadly, more than 800 children have died in hot cars in the last 20 years in the U.S.

Last year was the worst — 52 fatalities.

The vast majority of deaths, about three quarters, are infants and toddlers.

In more than half of the cases, their parent or caregiver simply forgot they were in the backseat.

“The only way to prevent this is regardless of fatigue, regardless of how many things you have on the go at any given point, the child is the focus of your attention,” says Chief Supt. Burleigh.

“The message that we’re trying to send today is to please not leave children unattended in vehicles in this weather.”

The child’s parents are co-operating with police.

It’s not yet clear if charges will be laid.

Tess van Straaten