3-year-old dies after 90 minutes in hot car outside church

September 14th, 2010 by Staff

TAMPA – Rodline Rigby left church Sunday, walked back to her Nissan Pathfinder, looked inside – and went into hysterics.

Ruebensa Rozin, a 3-year-old relative, had been left inside the sport utility vehicle for 90 minutes while others prayed.

“Some other parishioners grabbed the child, rushed her inside and did perform CPR on her, but unfortunately it was to no avail,” police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said. “The child did die at Tampa General Hospital.”

Though an investigation continues, Ruebensa’s death appears to be a tragic accident caused by miscommunication, McElroy said.

Rigby, 25, is the cousin of Ruebensa’s mother, Melissa Rozin. She had driven Ruebensa and two other children to Ebenezer Baptist Haitian Church, 2706 N. Ninth St., while Melissa worked.

A 12-year-old boy carried a 1-year-old baby into the church, but Ruebensa was left in the car, police said.

Rigby went to the church’s adult section and assumed the 12-year-old took the other children to the children’s section, McElroy said. The 12-year-old thought Rigby had taken the toddler.

Ruebensa – who everyone called “Hally” — was “a very smart child” and could speak English, French and her mother’s native Creole, Melissa Rozin said

“She could read A,B,C,D,” Rozin said. “She knew how to count.”

She liked the TV show “Barney,” and every night, wanted her mother to read Bible stories before bed.

At Rozin’s Yukon Street home, family gathered amid a growing media presence. Photographs of a smiling Hally, taken at her third birthday party, were strewn about a living room table.

Wearing a black and white dress, with a “birthday girl” pin, Hally is smiling and playful. Many of the pictures include her younger brother, Kenny.

“He has no idea yet what happened,” Rozin said. “He is too young.”

A few miles away, at the home where Rozin’s cousin was living, Rozin’s aunt was visibly distraught.

“It was an accident,” said Clausaire Trajean, who speaks limited English.

The cousin was briefly hospitalized because of stress. She has since gone to an undisclosed location, Trajean said.

The family still is making funeral arrangements.

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