3-year-old girl dies trapped inside burning car behind chained doors even as father abandons vehicle
A three-year-old girl has died after she was allegedly locked inside a burning car.
Zoey Pereira was found in the backseat of a blazing Audi A6 sedan near Baisley Boulevard and 155th Street in Queens, New York, just before 9 pm on Sunday, May 5, and was rushed to the nearby Jamaica Hospital for treatment. But her injuries proved to be too serious, and she died just a few hours later.
According to the New York Post, the toddler's 39-year-old father was driving the car when was engulfed in flames. The father abandoned the vehicle and fled from the scene even though his daughter was locked inside. He was reportedly arrested and taken into custody before being hospitalized himself on account of the second and third-degree burns he suffered.
When officials arrived at the scene after receiving a call about a burning car stopped in the middle of the boulevard, they found that the windows of the vehicle were shut. They also found a propane canister in the street, as well as in the backseat where Zoey was trapped.
A source told the Post that the back doors of the car had been chained shut and that firefighters were only able to pull out the three-year-old because the heat from inside the vehicle had melted the door handle.
It was around this time that the father, who was also on fire and still inside, sprinted out and jumped into the pond at Baisley Park, where he was later apprehended and arrested by authorities after a short search.
An eyewitness, 50-year-old Lisa Silvera, said, "I heard a boom like something explode. When I came out, I saw smoke." She also said that the 39-year-old man did not look to be in good shape. "He was on a stretcher. He was burned," she explained. "He looked white, so burned, with a mask on his face."
He was taken to Cornell Hospital for treatment and was said to be in critical but stable condition in the early hours of Monday. He was later identified as a resident of Valley Stream, Long Island, and considered as a person of interest in the case.
Numerous reports indicate it may have been the result of a custody dispute. Law enforcement officials confirmed that the man and the girl's mother have a limited history of domestic violence and that they did not live together.
The cause of the girl's death and the fire are still under investigation by authorities.