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Baby left in locked car OK

by Sheila Gardner
sgardner@recordcourier.com

An 11-month-old boy, locked alone in a parked car while his mother used a department store rest room, was unharmed despite the temperature in the vehicle reaching 105-108 degrees.

A woman in the Marshalls department store parking lot noticed the baby in the car on Wednesday shortly before noon and called 911.

She said the baby had been in the vehicle for about five minutes and was sweating. The outside temperature was hovering around 90 degrees.

By the time East Fork paramedics arrived, the mother was at the vehicle and the baby had been removed.

He was stripped down by paramedics to lower his core temperature from 99.9 degrees.

The deputy who responded said the mother began to cry and said she would never hurt her child.

She said she left him in the car because he was asleep and she didn’t want to wake him up while she ran in to use the bathroom.

Paramedics explained to the distraught mother how quickly temperatures can rise in a vehicle on a hot day and what effects they can have on an infant.

At approximately 101 degrees, an infant can have seizures. Death can occur at 104 degrees.

Prior to leaving the scene paramedics measured the temperature inside the vehicle at 115 degrees. The seat surface next to the baby’s car seat was 150 degrees.

The sobbing mother again repeated she would never hurt her baby and she was sorry.

Officers determined her actions were a lack of knowledge rather than criminal, according to reports. She and the child were released at the scene.

The report was forwarded to the district attorney’s office for review.

Staff Reports

When parking in the summer heat, motorists need to use common sense, said Douglas County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Halsey.

“People who have been caught leaving their child in a parked vehicle typically said the same thing: ‘I was only going to be gone for a couple of minutes. I didn’t think anything would be wrong,'” he said.

Every year children left in parked vehicles die as a result of the heat. A small child can’t open a window or door. They are quiet as heat overcomes them, so there wouldn’t be crying or other audible indications of distress, he said.

Halsey said heat coming through the windows in a parked car is absorbed by the interior. The glass acts as an insulator, retaining the heat.

When the temperature is 72 degrees outside, a car in direct sun can reach an internal temperature of 116. When the outside temperature is in the 90s, the heat inside the vehicle can climb to more than 150 degrees.

“Even in the shade, a car can be 15 to 20 degrees hotter than outdoors,” he said. “Cracking the window has little effect.”

He said leaving a child inside a parked vehicle, even with the windows rolled down, is dangerous, deadly and illegal.

“In a closed vehicle, it doesn’t take much time for heat stroke to set in, or worse. And, if you’re not concerned about the heat, you certainly should be concerned about potential kidnapping,” Halsey said.

Pets left in vehicles fare no better.

Lacking sweat glands, dogs cool off by panting which is inefficient. A dog’s normal body temperature is 101-102.5 degrees. They can withstand a body temperature of 107-108 degrees for a short period before brain damage, organ failure or death.

Halsey said anyone who sees children or pets left alone in enclosed or hot vehicles should notify law enforcement immediately.

SUMMER PARKING TIPS

Park in the shade. If you can’t, park in the direction where the sun will be shining on your rear window or passenger seat for most of the time it will be parked.

Window tinting/sunshades. Mitigate some of the heat and sun effects by using a windshield sunshade for the inside of your vehicle. This prevents the sun from penetrating the glass and the interior and heating up the vehicle.

Don’t leave perishable items in your vehicle including meat, eggs, dairy products; candy, closed carbonated drinks, aerosol packages like hair spray, tapes, compact discs or DVDs, sunscreen in a bottle, crayons, makeup, credit cards or other cards with magnetic strips on plastic, cleaning solutions that contain alcohol or ammonia.