Just after 5:00 PM on August 17, 2020, Duncanville Police Officers responded to a citizen call of a child left alone and appearing to be asleep in a vehicle on the 900 Block of Gemini Avenue in Duncanville. Upon arrival, Officer Pinilla confirmed an infant was locked in a vehicle alone, in a car seat, and appeared to be crying, sweating, and was covered in vomit.
Officer Pinilla, after requesting paramedics over his portable police radio, quickly shattered the vehicle window away from where the infant was seated and secured the nearly one-year-old in his air-conditioned patrol vehicle until paramedics arrived. The mother of the infant was identified and had arrived in the same vehicle from which the infant was saved, along with the infant’s grandmother and two of the infant’s older siblings.
All indications seem to point to this being a mistake caused by false assumptions and faulty communication about the infant’s well-being. However, a referral was made regarding the incident to Child Protective Services (CPS) as well as to a Dallas County Grand Jury to determine if civil or criminal accountability stemming from this incident is appropriate.
The Duncanville Police Department is thankful this incident did not result in a more tragic outcome as so many unfortunate incidents of children being left in hot vehicles do. Due to an alert and concerned citizen calling, and due to the definitive, quick actions of Officer Pinilla, both of whom will undoubtedly be regarded as heroes by the rescued infant for the rest of its life, a tragedy was averted.
During the trying times, which we’ve all experienced these last several months, coupled with school-aged children either already having returned to school or who are about to return to some semblance of school, parents and caregivers are stressed. We implore everyone to please slow down, especially those with very young children, and account for those who cannot do for themselves.
Research shows that even on what would be considered a mild day with an outside temperature of 70 degrees, temperatures inside closed vehicles can become dangerously hot. Because radiation from the sun is absorbed inside a closed vehicle and is trapped, a baking effect occurs and causes the inside temperature to rise dramatically. During that mild, sunny 70-degree day, it only takes about a half-hour for the temperature inside a closed vehicle to reach 104 degrees. After an hour, it can reach 113 degrees. When outside temperatures range from 80 to 100 degrees, the internal temperature of a vehicle can reach a scorching 130 to 172 degrees.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), children dying from heatstroke in a vehicle, either because they were left or became trapped, happens too often and can be averted. Nationally, just over 50 young children have perished in this manner each of the last two calendar years.
The majority of hot vehicle deaths — 54% — happen because someone forgets a child in a vehicle. How does this happen? Families who lost a child in such a manner once pondered the same question at one point, but then the tragedy happened to them. According to Jan Null, Department of Meteorology & Climate Science, San Jose State University, who has been tracking vehicular heatstroke deaths since 1998, some grim statistics regarding these types of tragedies from which we can all learn include:
- About 46% of the time when a child was forgotten, the caregiver meant to drop the child off at a daycare or preschool
- Thursdays and Fridays — the end of the workweek — have had the highest deaths
- Nearly 75% of children who are forgotten, and die, are under 2 years of age
TIPS FOR KEEPING CHILDREN SAFE
Check for Baby: Parents and caregivers, get in the habit of always looking inside your vehicle before locking the doors. Remember: Park. Look. Lock. And always ask yourself, “Where’s Baby?”