Miami-Dade County

Kids locked in hot cars can die in minutes. This is what cops say you should do

A test dummy used for a police and fire rescue demonstration on the methods to save the life of an infant or pet in case of emergency was presented during a news conference at Florida Highway Patrol in Doral, on Thursday, June 22, 2017. Experts explained why children, vulnerable persons and pets face increase dangers of heatstroke injuries and death when left inside of hot vehicles, along with steps that can be taken to prevent these accidents from occurring.
A test dummy used for a police and fire rescue demonstration on the methods to save the life of an infant or pet in case of emergency was presented during a news conference at Florida Highway Patrol in Doral, on Thursday, June 22, 2017. Experts explained why children, vulnerable persons and pets face increase dangers of heatstroke injuries and death when left inside of hot vehicles, along with steps that can be taken to prevent these accidents from occurring. sballestas@miamiherald.com

It wasn’t even 11 a.m., and the heat index was over 90 degrees Thursday.

But for the baby left inside a black sedan, with the windows up, it was way worse.

Experts say the interior of the car reached a lethal 122 degrees by the time rescue personnel got to the infant, pulling the baby from his car seat and rushing him into their fire truck.

In the end, the kid was fine. He was a doll. This was only a demonstration.

But if real children had been locked inside a car for that long, said Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Joe Sanchez, they wouldn’t have survived.

“We have to make sure we protect our greatest resources,” Sanchez said at a child protection awareness event on Thursday at FHP headquarters in West Miami-Dade. “We have to make sure [people] do not leave a child or pet in their vehicle.”

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Sebastián Ballestas sballestas@miamiherald.com

The consequences, all too often, are tragic.

Already in 2017, two Florida children, including a 1-year-old boy in Pinecrest, have died as a result of hot car-related tragedies.

Back in February, Sammy Schnall was left inside a Toyota Camry for more than an hour during the hottest part of an 82-degree day in Miami-Dade.

Authorities at the time said a family member was watching the child and apparently forgot he was in the car. Schnall was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. He died at Baptist Hospital in Kendall a day later.

This sort of tragedy happens almost weekly. On average, 37 children die from heat stroke after being left inside sweltering vehicles each year in the United States. Twelve have died this year alone.

More than half of these cases were accidental, according to KidsAndCars.org, an advocacy group that educates the public on the dangers associated with children being left alone in or around motor vehicles.

And those dangers are very real. The interior of cars left in the hot sun can reach 125 degrees in just minutes, even if the windows are cracked (which has no effect on the heating process).

Video captured outside an Indiana Walmart shows a police officer trying to get a baby out of a locked car in the store's parking lot. The 35-years-old mother was booked into jail without bond, the child was taken to the hospital.

“Sometimes, we get tied up in our usual routines, and anytime we get out of our usual routine, that’s when accidents can happen.” said Gilda Ferradaz, the Department of Children and Family’s Southern Region managing director.

“The natural response for parents is to say this cannot happen to them,” added DCF community development administrator Silvia Beebe.

But it does — over and over again.

Even the most diligent parents can forget their kid is with them, particularly new moms and dads who are overtired. Since 1990, there have been 793 documented vehicular heat stroke deaths in the United States, including 49 in 2010 alone.

Accidents happen both at and away from home. Ignatius Carroll, a captain with Miami Fire Rescue, told of a child who died while playing hide-and-seek in the family car.

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Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll speaks at a press conference to provide safety recommendations that should be taken in this summer on leaving pets and kids inside the cars, at FHP headquarters in Doral on Thursday, June 22, 2017. Sebastián Ballestas sballestas@miamiherald.com

Heat stroke can occur when body temperature rises to 104 degrees; medics have found children whose bodies have reached 107 degrees.

Children overheat three to five times faster than adults and have died from heat stroke in temperatures as low as 60 degrees.

That’s why officials encourage anyone who sees a child in a potentially life-threatening situation to act — call 911, and then break a window and get the kid out of the car as soon as possible. The law protects Good Samaritans from civil liability in such situations.

Dogs have been victims, too. More than a dozen police K-9s died last year as a result of being left in hot cars. Last month, there was such a case in the small town of Sebastian, just north of Vero Beach, where a cop left his dog in his cruiser after returning from a hearing in Brevard County.

Two years ago, two Hialeah K9s died after being left in the officer’s SUV at his Davie home.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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