The onset of summer for most of us means lots of time spent with friends and family enjoying the great outdoors, but the change in season also brings with it the importance of being vigilant against the dangers of the hot sun.
While the use of sunscreen and proper hydration are drilled into our brains, there is one thing that often goes overlooked when thinking of summer safety – our cars! Most of us are familiar with that feeling of having stepped into a furnace after opening a car door on a hot day, proving just how toasty they can get.
In moments like these, it feels like the AC just isn’t working fast enough!
Finding that occasional fused piece of plastic, or the completely melted crayon or candy is also a reminder that a car with closed doors and windows is technically no different than the oven in our kitchens.
It’s no wonder then that leaving behind pets or children in a car, even just for a few minutes, is never a good idea! What seems like no-brainer advice to most of us, still causes numerous deaths each year because someone somewhere decided that surely it can’t happen to them…
Karen Gruen, a 33-year-old teacher from New Jersey, doesn’t seem like someone who needs schooling in common sense! Yet, on a shopping trip at her local Kohl’s store in Howell, Karen decided that it wasn’t too hot to leave her 4-month-old daughter in the car while she quickly ran inside the store.
The weather that day was only in the 80s, but sources say that with closed doors and windows, the temperature could have easily been as high as 120 degrees inside the car where the 4-month-old was left alone.
53-year-old retired cop Steve Eckel happened to be passing Karen’s car in the parking lot when he saw the little infant rolling her eyes and sweating. When he reached to open the door, it was of course locked! Steve recalls his fatherly instincts kicking in as he ran to his own car to grab a sledgehammer, then smashed the front passenger window of the stranger’s vehicle:
“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.”
Even though Steve said the baby was beet red, he found her alive. He promptly took off her romper and went inside an air-conditioned store to cool her little body. Karen approached shortly after and upon seeing the broken window and an empty car seat, couldn’t help but panic. Steve remembers Karen saying:
“Oh my God, where’s my baby?”
At this point, Steve approached her and told her what had happened. Cops came to the site shortly after, and after questioning determined that Karen was gone for about 40-minutes. If it hadn’t been for Steve, it is hard to imagine just how bad things could have gotten! Steve’s parting words to the mother?
“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.”
Karen was arrested and charged with child endangerment.
Here is the must watch video of Steve’s heroic efforts!
Some people just can’t help themselves from making poor choices, regardless of how many warnings they get. While it is almost impossible to teach an old dog new tricks, there is a line to be drawn when adults do things that put the lives of kids in jeopardy. Thanks to Steve’s vigilance, Karen’s baby girl won’t have to pay the ultimate price for her mother’s foolishness.
For the rest of us, this is yet another reminder to be mindful of just how hot it can get in the summertime! No errand, no matter how quick, is worth risking the lives of those we love!