SOMERS, N.Y. – A casual Sunday trip to Home Goods in Somers Commons ended in near-disaster for a mother and her 1-year-old child after she accidentally locked her keys, and the baby, inside.
Time was of the essence, as temperatures reached 90 degrees in Somers that day. According to a study documented by heatkills.org, it takes just 10 minutes for the interior of a car to reach 109 degrees on a 90-degree day; recently appointed Officer John Maguire got there in four, said Chief Mike Driscoll.
Maguire, who did not have the proper tool to open the car, called a tow truck for assistance. The tow would take 15-20 minutes to arrive at the scene, which Driscoll said Maguire simply didn’t have. He and the child’s mother, who according to the police report was “in a frantic state of mind,” made the snap decision for him to break the window opposite the baby. The maneuver likely saved the baby’s life.
The baby was a little sweaty and red in the face after being pulled from the car, but showed no other signs of distress, Driscoll said. He was brought into Home Goods to cool off and the child’s mother did not think medical attention was necessary.
Although Somers hasn’t seen any car-related heat-stroke deaths of infants in recent years, Driscoll isn’t taking any risks after that incident. He said the department has already ordered a proper tool to open locked doors for all patrol cars. The Slim Jim tool, which patrol cars are currently equipped with, is outdated and dangerous, Driscoll said.
“Three officers in the United States have been killed since 2011, because it sets off the airbag,” Driscoll said.
The department’s record is good; he said they get calls of infants locked in cars about every two months and always get them out. However, he warns that parents and caretakers should be very conscious of leaving children, the elderly and pets in a car when it’s too hot.
“Heat gets to them faster,” he said.
And he’s right. According to kidsandcars.org, an organization dedicated to exploring and educating the public about vehicle safety for children, a child’s body overheats up to five times faster than an adult’s. Twelve have died in 2017, so far, according to noheatstroke.org, and 712 children left in vehicles have died of heatstroke since 1998.