On Aug. 8, 1998, five girls were discovered in the trunk of a car in West Valley City. Jaesha Smith, 4, Audrey Smith, 2, Ashley Richardson, 3, Alisha Richardson, 6, and McKell Hedden, 5, became known as the "five little angels."
The car they were found in belonged to one of the children's parents, and at least one of the girls knew how to operate the trunk release lever near the front seat. The girls somehow became locked inside and died of hyperthermia.
The children had not been seen for about 20 minutes when a search began. They were found after an hour and a half of searching.
The car was parked at the home of one of the girls. The outside temperature had reached 100 degrees that day, according to police reports. A study performed by the Wilderness Emergency Medical Services Institute that year revealed that most temperature increases inside cars occur during the first 15 minutes after they are left in the sun. In most of the cases surveyed, children found dead in hot cars were there for less than two hours.
Not long after the West Valley incident two other instances in the country brought the number of children's lives lost in trunk deaths to 11 that summer. The automobile industry responded with trunk release devices to be installed in nearly every car, allowing for opening from the inside of the trunk.
Manufacturers are encouraged to supply such devices on their products.