It's a moment that will likely haunt him for the rest of his life.
The father of a 9-month-old infant who died after being left in a hot pickup truck on Monday afternoon told 9-1-1 operators that the incident was a tragic mistake on his part.
"She's been in the car for hours, and I absolutely forgot about her," said Steven Lillie, the child's father. "She's not alive."
Lillie, 31 of Cocoa, Florida, later told police that he had intended to drop his daughter off with a caretaker before heading to his job Monday, but that he had forgotten to do it. The results were catastrophic. Several hours after starting work at the Fraternal Order of Police office in Rockledge, Florida, Lillie took a call from a family member asking about the baby. He rushed outside to the Barton Plaza parking lot and discovered his daughter's lifeless body in the back seat of his truck.
Lillie was sobbing but managed to tell Rockledge police detectives that he had been distracted from his usual routine on that fateful day.
Detectives are reviewing the incident – which happened the day after Father's Day — to see if there was any criminal negligence involved. No charges have been filed in the case.
"It's just too soon. When you're investigating an incident like this you're also investigating people that have lost their child," said Donna Seyferth, a spokeswoman for the Rockledge Police Department. Seyferth said police were trying to give the family time to grieve. "We're respectful of that," she added.
About 4:45 p.m. Monday, around four hours after Lillie was supposed to drop his baby girl off with her caregiver, Lillie received the call that prompted him to go outside to his truck, which had its windows up. He screamed in horror as a coworker quickly called 9-1-1, reports show.
"Dad was distraught. That's probably the best word I could use. He was crying; he was distraught. It was probably for him and his family the worst day of their lives," Seyferth said.
Lillie's unresponsive 9-month-old infant was rushed to Wuesthoff Hospital in Rockledge as paramedics and police worked to resuscitate her. She was pronounced dead a short time later, Seyferth said.
"I think the hardest thing about this is that I don't think anybody wakes up planning for this to happen," Seyferth said.
Investigators hope that an autopsy of the infant, who they have not identified by name, will provide answers as to how this tragedy happened, or at least provide information about the child's condition and care before the incident.
"(The parents) have been very cooperative with us. It's not that they are not cooperating. It's just that we are proceeding with caution," Seyferth said.
Since 2000, more than 500 children have died from heat stroke because they were left in cars on warm days.
"Even great parents can forget a child in the back seat, but caregivers who are unaccustomed to transporting children are especially prone to forgetting," a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration public announcement says. "Think about the last time your routine was interrupted. Maybe you forgot something or were afraid you might forget something. Or maybe you decided to leave your child alone in the car, thinking 'I'll just run into the store for a minute.' In either case, it's important to know the risks and consequences associated with leaving kids in cars - especially hot cars."
In 10 minutes, a car can heat up 20 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that in the summer months, temperature inside a vehicle can quickly exceed 110 degrees, according tothe federal agency, which warns parents that a child's body temperature increases up to five times faster than an adult's.
The heatstroke death of Lillie's infant daughter has spurred an investigation from theFlorida Department of Children and Families – the state agency that handles child protective cases – which is reviewing the case to see if the girl's siblings may need additional care. Kristi Gray, spokeswoman for DCF, said the infant had three older siblings and there were no prior reports of abuse or neglect of the infant.