The wife of a Miami police officer was found dead in her husband’s patrol car after she became locked in the back seat during a sweltering summer afternoon, PEOPLE confirms.
Clara Paulino, 56, was found dead on Friday by her husband and son just after 5 p.m. on an afternoon when area temperatures hit a high of 92 degrees, Matthew Reyes, vice president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police tells PEOPLE.
“It was horrific. It's horrible," says Reyes. "It's unfortunate that you can't help but imagine what kind of a death that would be."
Reyes says that officer Aristides Paulino works nights, and returned home from his shift and went to sleep around noon. When he awoke around 5 p.m., he found his wife’s cell phone on the back patio, but was unable to find her, Reyes says.
"When he woke up he was looking for his wife. His son began to help as well, and him and his son — the son, initially — ended up finding her in the back seat of his police car for, at this time, reasons unknown," he says. "He went to sleep around noon, woke up at 5 p.m., so somewhere in between there, for whatever reason, she ended up in there."
Reyes says Paulino and his son rendered first aid and CPR "to the best of their ability," but Clara was pronounced dead after being transported to a local hospital.
Officer Michael Vega of the City of Miami Police Department confirms to PEOPLE that Paulino, 58, has worked for the department for more than 25 years.
Vega says that patrol cars like Paulino’s can only be opened from the outside, and have partitions separating the back from the front, making it impossible for someone inside to climb into the front seat.
“We did extend our condolences, and we’re here for him and his family if they need us,” he says.
Reyes told CNN that it is “not a weird thing” for a spouse to enter a patrol car, as “it’s our take-home cars in our driveway, every day.”
A spokesperson for the Miami-Dade Police Department tells PEOPLE that Paulino’s death is an “open, unclassified death investigation.” The spokesperson declined to comment further.
Investigators are treating her death as a “horrific accident,” the Miami Herald reported.
“We haven’t even buried her yet, and it’s a lot of pain,” her son, Aristides Paulino, told the outlet.
A cause of death remains unclear, and a spokesperson for the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s Office did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
“Horrible, horrible, horrible,” Daphne Steward, a neighbor of the family’s home in Miami Shores, told NBC affiliate WTVJ. “She loved her family and her children and I believe it’s just an unfortunate situation.”
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