4-year-old boy dies in "freak accident"

1:32 PM, Aug 30, 2012   |    comments
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ATWATER, Cal. (NBC) - A 4-year-old boy is dead after what investigators are calling a "freak accident". Gabe De La Cruz's truck was parked in his family's driveway while he was working.

The truck's alarm went off and De La Cruz's mother attempted to deactivate it with a keychain remote.

The 4-year-old boy, Gabe's nephew was with her, and had stepped in front of the truck.

When the woman pressed the button that she thought would shut off the alarm, she activated the vehicle's remote starter instead.

When the engine started the truck lurched forward and pinned the boy to a metal fence.

He was rushed to the hospital where he later died.

"That's the best way to phrase it, a freak accident," says Atwater Police Lt. Sammy Joseph. "This was a manual vehicle, so apparently it was in second gear and the brakes were not on as well, so just once you started the car, it leaps forward."

Gabe De La Cruz says his emergency brake was on.

"If it's starting to get too weak with the parking break it can still cause it to jump forward even with the parking break," mechanic Daniel Cross says.

Cross says automatic start systems aren't typically installed in manual vehicles for this very reason.

Still, there are devices available for added protection.

"Usually they're supposed to have a neutral safety switch that's supposed to stop it from doing that but it just depends on the year of vehicle, how it's set up all that," says Cross.

Police say the best advice they can give to avoid these kinds of accidents is to make sure you know where a child is at all times; especially when doing anything near a vehicle.

Charges will not be filed against the family.

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