I blogged recently about a dog that was left in a car in 90-degree weather but saved himself by honking the horn for more than an hour. Smart dog, happy ending. But this hazard unfortunately goes hand-in-hand with summer heat: vehicles that become potential death traps.
Sure enough, just two weeks later we see a much more serious story out of Charlotte: A two-month-old baby girl was left in a car outside a Wal-mart on Saturday afternoon, July 24, 2010. Bad enough with temperatures approaching 98 degrees; worse still on the sweltering asphalt of a parking lot. Firefighters said the temperature inside the car could have reached 140 degrees.
“You have a young infant who’s basically been boxed in, enclosed in an oven,” said Capt. Mark Basnight with the Charlotte Fire Department. “The heat temperatures … can rise extremely fast, and infants and the elderly are specifically very vulnerable to this.”
Police said that the child was left in the car for 45 minutes, but her mother said she did not think it was that long. Starkiya Jones, 25, was charged with child neglect. The infant had a fever and was dehydrated, but was otherwise OK.
Jones said that she asks herself over and over: “How could you? How could you do that?”
How easily a few minutes of distraction can create a deadly situation. How often when people try to do two things at once – texting and driving, leaving a stove burner un-attended while cleaning – it leads to tragedy. Our habit of “multi-tasking” can bring terrible consequences.
The fire captain’s comments impart some important warnings.
“… infants and the elderly are specifically very vulnerable to this.” Stories of infants or toddlers being trapped in cars are all too common. Their vulnerability is obvious. But consider. Even though an elderly person might normally be able to get out of a car, a sudden medical emergency – a stroke, a heart attack, or just a fainting spell – could render him or her helpless.
“The heat temperatures can rise extremely fast …” No one should ever assume that leaving a child – or anyone for that matter – for just a few minutes won’t pose any danger. That chilly air-conditioned atmosphere of your car can become baking hot in just a couple of minutes. At best uncomfortable – and who wants that for their baby? At worst? Deadly.
We can be thankful that this incident ended without serious harm coming to the little girl. And we hope this will serve as a cautionary tale to prevent children from being left in danger in the future.