Deaths of SC twins left in car ruled accidental, no charges filed, sheriff says

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The Richland County Sheriff’s Department will not charge a parent in the death of twins who died after being left in a vehicle.

“We did an intense investigation,” Sheriff Leon Lott said at a Tuesday new conference at the department’s headquarters on Two Notch Road. “No questions (were) left unanswered.”

The case was one of the most emotionally difficult in his 25 years as sheriff, Lott said.

During an interrogation with investigators, the father was distraught and showed emotion that could not be faked, Lott said.

“He didn’t mean to do it,” the sheriff said. “He’s going to have to live with that the rest of his life.”

The 20-month-old identical twins brothers were Brayden and Bryson McDaniel, Richland County Coroner Naida Rutherford said on Sept. 2, the day after the boys died. Their deaths have been ruled an accident, Rutherford said Tuesday.

The babies died of heat stroke after being left in a vehicle for more than nine hours, according to Rutherford. After the police investigation, the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office said charges were not warranted in the case.

“This father just made a mistake,” Rutherford said.

The twins were likely placed in the vehicle at 7:30 a.m, Rutherford said. They were in rear-facing car seats. The father forgot to drop the children off at day care in the morning and went to work, according to Lott.

The father went to the Sunshine House Early Learning Academy at 10336 Wilson Blvd in Blythewood where the children were enrolled at about 5:30 p.m., Rutherford said. Staff at the day care said the children weren’t there, according to Lott. It was then that the father discovered his children had been in the vehicle all day. Staff at the day care was not involved in the twins’ deaths.

At about 5:30 p.m., deputies responded to the report of two unresponsive infants, and paramedics pronounced the twins dead on the scene.

The temperature inside the vehicle on Sept. 1 was around 120 degrees, Rutherford said.. The high temperature recorded Sept. 1 at Columbia Metropolitan Airport was 83 degrees, and that was at 5:56 p.m., according to Weather Underground.

Following a funeral service on Sept. 7, the twins were buried at Memorial Gardens of Columbia.

“They were fun-loving little boys, with smiles that could light up an entire room,” according to their obituary. “They enjoyed laughing, giving wet kisses, singing.”

They are survived by their parents, three sisters, and a brother, among other relatives, according to the obituary.

‘Horrible, tragic’

Lott said the father was a professional who worked at a Richland County manufacturing plant and was “under some intense pressure at work.” The pressure at worked contributed to the father forgetting to drop the children off.

The infants’ deaths impacted investigators with the sheriff’s department and coroner’s office. Some investigators have gone through counseling because of the case, Lott said.

The case also brought the sympathies of the Richland County communities, which were gripped by the “horrible, tragic accident,” Lott said.

The coroner’s office had received hundreds of calls about the case, Rutherford said.

“I just ask people pray for this family,” Lott said.

Rutherford reminded parents to look in the backseat of their vehicle every time they get out to ensure children aren’t inside. Don’t disable rear seat occupied warnings in vehicles. She also pleaded for care givers, such as day cares and schools, to call parents if children don’t show up.

South Carolina leads the nations this year in children being left in cars and dying, according to kidsandcars.org. Three children have died under such circumstances in the state. In June, a foster mother left a 3-year-old in a car in Spartanburg, kidsandcars.org reported. Florida has also had three such deaths but one of those was the result of a woman being shot to death in a car. Across the country, 22 children have died from being left in cars in 2021.

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