With summer in full force here in the northern hemisphere, it is more important than ever that people who care for children, the elderly, and pets be aware of the dangers of leaving them unattended in locked cars. We just found a cautionary tale about a retired police officer who was alert and managed to save a child from certain death. But remember, you may not be so lucky as to have this guardian angel watching out for your family.
Fifty three year old retired police officer Steve Eckel has never lost his edge. Even today, he is always alert and aware of his surroundings, and is prepared to step up and serve his community when needed.
So when he happened by a car in a shopping center parking lot recently, he noticed a tragedy in the making. Inside the locked vehicle was an unattended infant strapped into a car seat. He could see the child was in distress from the heat, but when he reached for the door handle, it was locked. He ran back to his own vehicle and grabbed a sledgehammer, which he then used to smash one of the windows and extricate the toddler from the vehicle.
He says “I ran around to the other side, caught the edge here, and it just shattered … I almost started to cry, I got really emotional at that point.”
He removed the child’s romper and took her into a nearby store that had air conditioning. The child was beet red and sweating profusely from the heat.
He remembers that when the mother, thirty three year old school teacher, Karen Gruen returned, she cried out “Oh my God, where’s my baby?”
At this point he confronted her and explained the circumstances. Police arrived shortly thereafter and determined that Gruen had been gone for about forty minutes.
While the temperature outside was in the mid 80’s, the officers also said that the temperature inside the car could have approached 120 degrees.
The responding police officers arrested the mother on the charge of child endangerment.
Before they took her into custody, Eckel had one last thing to say on the incident “I do believe in guardian angels, and I think I’m the one for this child … She should plead guilty and get probation and realize you just can’t do this.”
Every year, more than thirty five children die in the US because they were left in sealed automobiles during hot weather. Many states have specific laws relating to this situation, but fewer than half also have similar laws to protect the elderly and pets.
The dangers associated with leaving these at risk groups in sealed cars have long been in the public consciousness, so there are few good excuses for doing something like this.
Surprisingly however, there are currently only twenty three states have laws specifically to protect animals left in locked cars. The states that have these laws include Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Have you ever had to help rescue an at risk person or animal from a hot car? Please share your stories with us here.