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South Carolina father distracted by work won't be charged in hot car deaths of twins, sheriff says

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said the incident was a "horrible, horrible, tragic accident."
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No charges will be filed in the deaths of twin 20-month-old boys after they were left in a hot vehicle for more than nine hours, authorities in South Carolina said.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said the boys' father thought he took the children, Bryson and Brayden McDaniel, to day care in Blythewood, a suburb of Columbia, on the morning of Sept. 1.

But the boys were left in the backseat of the vehicle while the man was at work, Lott said.

The man made the discovery just after 5:30 p.m. after he drove to the day care center to pick up the boys. Lott said that the man had been dealing with work-related issues and that the deaths were a "horrible, horrible, tragic accident."

"The father was under some intense pressure at work that really had his mind somewhere else that day," Lott said at a news conference Tuesday. "And in his mind, he really believed that he had dropped the two boys off at day care. There was no doubt in his mind that he had done that."

The father, whom police declined to name, works at a manufacturing plant in Richland County.

Image: Sunshine House Early Learning Academy
Sunshine House Early Learning Academy in Blythewood, S.C.Google Maps

"There were some things going on at work, not your normal work activities, just some things that were going on that he was dealing with at work. That contributed to it," Lott said, declining to provide further details.

Lott said interviewing the father was "heart-wrenching."

"The pure emotion that came out was not something that you could fake," he said.

Richland County Coroner Naida Rutherford has said the children were in rear-facing car seats. An autopsy did not show any physical evidence of trauma or abuse. She said Tuesday that the manner of death had been ruled an accident and that the cause will be listed as hyperthermia.

Rutherford said the heat index inside the vehicle on Sept. 1 was 120 degrees, NBC affiliate WIS of Columbia reported.

She said the boys' father made a "terrible mistake" that he will be reminded of for the rest of his life.

Lott told reporters that the case was tough to investigate. Deputies, dispatchers and others who worked on the case received counseling, he said.

"This is something that will get you. ... You don't even have to be a parent for something like this to emotionally have an impact on you," he said. "It's tragic. It's a parent's worst nightmare. It's also a community's worst nightmare, too, because so many people cared about these two young people."