Whenever we think of going out into the hot sun, we quickly and automatically reach for sunscreen and a bottle of water or some other refreshing drink to keep us hydrated. This becomes a daily routine during summer as the outdoors beckons and we have fun with friends and family in this favorite season of the year.
But there is more than we should think about when it comes to protecting ourselves from the dangers of the sun – beyond sunscreen and hydration.
One thing that often gets forgotten in the pursuit of summer safety is our cars. Vehicles get so heated during a hot day that they can be likened to furnaces.
Just open a car door on a hot day, and a wave of heat is likely to hit you. The inside of the car is likely to reveal fused pieces of plastic or completely melted crayons or candy – all evidence of the oven like environment. The AC never seems to work fast enough in these conditions. With this in mind, it is well known that it is dangerous to leave children or pets in a car even for a short period of time. Each year there are numerous deaths caused because of this.
Yet, many people still take the risk of rushing somewhere for a short time and leaving their baby or pet behind in a locked car. They tell themselves that they will be right back and nothing could possibly go wrong. Many times they are proved wrong.
Karen Gruen is a 33-year-old teacher from New Jersey who is well learned and well informed. She is the kind of person who is expected to clearly understand the dangers of the hot summer sun. Yet, on a shopping trip at her local Kohl’s store in Howell, she took the risk of leaving her 4-month old child in her car as she quickly went inside to get something.
She assured herself that she would quickly pick up what she needed and be back in a jiff. Temperatures were in the 80s that day. But with closed doors the temperature could rise to 120 degrees especially inside a car, sources have said.
It was unfortunate that Karen left her baby alone in that day. The temperature quickly rose in the car after she left. Steve Eckel, a 53-year-old retired cop happened to be passing Karen’s car in the parking lot when he saw the little infant rolling her eyes and sweating. He reached to open the door, but as expected it was locked!
Steve’s fatherly instincts kicked in and he knew he had to act immediately. That little baby’s life was in danger. He ran to his own car to bring a sledgehammer and proceeded to shutter the front passenger window of the stranger’s vehicle. He said that he ran around to the other side, caught the edge there, and it just shattered. He almost started to cry and got really emotional at that point.
He had to help that little baby. Steve was so relieved to find the baby alive although she was beet red. He quickly unfastened her romper and carried her out and into the air conditioned store to cool her. He was so glad he had been there to help that poor baby.
Karen appeared shortly after and went into panic immediately she saw the broken window and empty car seat. Steve recalls her asking where her baby was. She was very frightened and thought her baby might have been kidnapped. She became frantic and looked confused and didn’t know what to do.
Steve calmly approached her and told her what had transpired. Karen broke into tears when she saw her baby. She couldn’t fathom what could have happened. She had endangered her daughters’ life.
She thought she was gone for only a short time. Police officers arrived at the site shortly after. They questioned all who were present and found out that Karen had been shopping for forty minutes. What was supposed to be a quick dash into the store had ended up becoming a full shopping trip and the urgency of getting back to her baby had reduced.
If Steve hadn’t been there, surely the worst could have happened. It was a miracle that he happened to be passing by and that he acted so fast. His actions surely saved the baby’s life. Steve had some parting words for Karen. He told her that he believed in guardian angels and on that day he was one for the child.
He advised her to plead guilty. She would likely get probation but she should never repeat her mistake again for the sake of her child. Nothing was worth leaving a baby alone in a locked car.
Despite many warnings and cautionary tales, there are still people who will make poor choices. They can’t help themselves. But even so, there is no excuse for an adult endangering the life of a child by making a poor decision. Because of Steve’s quick heroics, Karen’s daughter was saved from paying the ultimate price for her mother’s recklessness. That little girl was so lucky that day.
And for all of us, this becomes yet another reminder to be careful of how hot it can get in our cars during summer. We should learn from Karen’s experience. No activity, no matter how quick or “important” is worth risking the lives of our loved ones.
Summer is indeed a time of fun and relaxation but all this can change if we are not careful and vigilant about our safety and that of our pets and children when it comes to the high summer temperatures. Remember to never leave them unattended especially in a locked vehicle. This will risk their lives and whoever is responsible will definitely get arrested for endangerment. Let us enjoy ourselves without making poor decisions that would lead to such dire – and many times tragic – consequences.