‘Forever remembered’: Grandmother testifies to state leaders in push to pass bill to prevent hot car deaths

Every year, too many children across the United States die from being left in a hot vehicle.

Now a family who experienced this tragedy is continuing their push for a proposed Florida law aimed at preventing this from happening to other children.

“This would guarantee that her name would be forever remembered and honored if the life of just one child is saved. Ariya would have not died in vain,” Ariya Paige’s grandmother Pamela Paige said through tears as she addressed the committee.

Paige stood before the Senate Rules Committee to support proposed Senate Bill 554, also known as Ariya’s Act. Ariya died in late July after investigators said her babysitter, Rhonda Jewell, left her unattended in a hot sports utility vehicle for five hours.

REMEMBERING ARIYA: The joyful life and tragic death of Baby Ariya

“Ariya Paige passed away at 10 months old in July of 2023 after being left in a car by her babysitter in Baker County. As a mother, I cannot begin to imagine what this family has endured,” Sen. Jennifer Bradley said.

During testimony, Paige mentioned what Jewell reportedly told investigators.

“When asked if she planned to get her, she said no because she completely forgot she was there. Ariya was left unattended in the vehicle from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.. When Brook arrived to pick her up, she was left in that vehicle for five hours on one of the hottest days in the summer of 2023,” she said.

According to the Kids and Car Safety Organization, last year, 29 children across the U.S. died from being left in hot vehicles. Ariya was the 16th child who died.

Ariya’s family is pushing for the law to recognize the month of April as “Hot Car Death Prevention Month.” During that month, various state and local government agencies would sponsor events that educate the public on the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles.

“Passing this bill into law would speak volumes about the commitment to serving and protecting the children and the families of Florida,” Paige said. “If Senate Bill 554 is passed, lives would be saved. And our family would be forever grateful because Ariya would never be forgotten again.”

According to Sen. Bradley, the bill is now headed to the House and Senate floor.

Jewell is scheduled to go to trial in June.

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