Police are investigating the tragic death of a 16-month-old boy who was left inside a hot car this week in Metro Vancouver.

The toddler was unconscious when someone spotted him in Burnaby's Garden Village neighbourhood Thursday afternoon, as sunny weather was breaking temperature records on the South Coast.

The startling discovery triggered a massive emergency response in the area involving more than half a dozen police cruisers. The boy was rushed to hospital, but couldn't be saved. 

On Friday, Burnaby RCMP said the information they've gathered so far indicates the toddler had been left unattended for several hours.

Chief Supt. Deanne Burleigh described the case as "absolutely heartbreaking," and said she expects it to cause a ripple effect throughout the city.

"Yesterday in Burnaby, we had a tragedy in our community," she said. "I can't imagine how the parents are coping. I can't imagine how I would cope."

Police said they found the toddler's dad at the scene, and that both parents are co-operating with their investigation. So far, no one has been arrested in connection with the boy's death and charges haven't been ruled out.

The car was discovered at around 5:45 p.m. near Inman Avenue and Kingsway, in a residential area marked with homes, churches and parks.

"It's just terrible," said resident Jeremy Yang. "It's not acceptable to leave anyone, especially a child, in a car."

Burleigh told reporters she understands the public will have many more questions about what happened, but that the RCMP's investigation is still in the early stages and they can't confirm any further details.

"The investigation is still very fresh, very new," she said. "The message that we're trying to send today is to please not to leave children unattended in vehicles in this weather."

Police stressed that people need to be vigilant when transporting children, and urged them to double-check the backseat of their vehicle to make sure it's cleared before leaving the vehicle.

Authorities have not suggested the toddler who died this week was left in the car by accident.

Officers are continuing to speak with family members and witnesses, and asked anyone with information on what happened to come forward.