Parents of a 14-year-old Madera girl are suing BMW North America, claiming their daughter died of heatstroke because she was unable to escape the family's locked vehicle.
Graciela Martinez's parents assert in a lawsuit filed this week that the "double-locking" mechanism in the family's 1997 BMW 328i trapped their daughter and made it impossible for her to break out.
An autopsy later revealed Graciela died of heatstroke and environmental hyperthermia due to being trapped inside the vehicle.
The family's attorney told the Fresno Bee that BMW knew the locking mechanism was dangerous because it warned owners in the vehicle's manual yet failed to install an emergency release lever.
"It's a sad, terrible tragedy that could have been prevented," attorney Warren Paboojian told the Bee.
Graciela and her siblings went to Madera High School on Sept. 11 last year in the family's car. While her siblings left for early classes, Graciela decided to stay behind and sleep for an hour inside the family's car before her first class.
Her brother locked the car, left for class and returned later that afternoon to find Graciela, who was pale and didn't have a pulse, in the back seat. She was later pronounced dead.
Graciela's parents are also suing the Madera Unified School District, which they allege failed to notice their daughter inside the locked vehicle, and didn't notify them that she didn't attend class that day.