A four-year-old boy died after his father locked him in the family car and forgot about him for six hours, while temperatures soared to 36 degrees Celsius.

The child was found unconscious with his face pressed to the window of the white SUV, which was parked beneath a residential building in Xiangtan city, Hunan Province on Saturday afternoon, the Sanxiang Metropolis Daily reported.

The youngster was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead due to “suffocation and heat”, according to the newspaper.

hot car death
The SUV where the boy was found dead. Photo: Sanxiang Metropolis Daily.

The family had returned home at 11am after a visit to a health clinic where the boy and his sister were given vaccinations. His mother asked her husband to look after the boy, who was asleep on the back seat, and went upstairs with their daughter, the paper said. But the father forgot about his son, locked the car and went to meet a business associate, the report said.

It was six hours before the family realised the boy was missing and started to hunt for him. Temperatures in the car during that time could have climbed as high as 60C, the report cited police as saying.

The car was parked less than 10 metres from a leisure room popular with chess-playing residents. One man reportedly said: “I don’t know if the kid knocked on the car window to ask for help, no one here noticed.”

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.