updated 6/11/2007 7:47:46 PM ET 2007-06-11T23:47:46

Two young brothers found in the trunk of their mother's car in south central Kentucky died of hyperthermia, a coroner said Monday.

It appeared Chase Baker, 8, and Coty Baker, 11, had locked themselves in the trunk and could not get out, authorities said.

The boys had been reported missing Saturday night around 8 p.m. EDT from a residence two miles south of London, according to Kentucky State Police. They were found about four hours later.

"They had been dead several hours, probably at least six hours," Laurel County Coroner Doug Bowling said. "They would have passed out fairly soon due to the heat in the trunk, which was a small area."

The boys' grandparents had called police to say they had not seen the children for about three hours, Bowling said. State police said the deaths appeared to be accidental.

"Preliminarily, it appears that this is just a tragedy," said Trooper Don Trosper of the state police post in London. " ... These boys were out playing and they accidentally got themselves locked in the trunk."

Their bodies were found in a 1996 Audi at their mother's home, Bowling said. He said the mother was at home when they were found.

Several family members' cars filled the lawn of the home that belongs to the boys' grandparents Sunday evening. Their mother lives in a mobile home on the property, Trosper said.

"It's been a tragedy for the whole community," Mary Bowling, principal of London Elementary, told the Lexington Herald-Leader. "They were just wonderful boys; they had their whole lives in front of them."

Chase and Coty had just completed second and fifth grade, respectively.

Larry Rush, the boys' grandfather, told the newspaper the boys were loving and caring. Rush lives across the road from the boys and their mother, Hannah Miller, who is his daughter.

Release latches required on newer cars
Federal law requires cars made beginning in 2002 to have release latches inside the trunk.

In 2005 in Camden, N.J., three young boys thought lost were later found dead in the trunk of their family's car. Officials said the boys suffocated after climbing into the trunk on their own.

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