By TRAVIS M. WHITEHEAD
HARLINGEN — “I’ll be right back.”
Those simple words can mean tragedy when a child is left in a hot car.
A parent dashes inside for just five minutes, which turn into 10 minutes, 15 minutes …
“Over the five minutes, the temperatures can go from 80 to 90 degrees to quickly 120 to 135 degrees, which can be fatal,” said Dr. Luis Lee from the pediatric ICU at Valley Baptist Medical Center.
Lee spoke at a press conference yesterday along with Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz and Harlingen Police Sergeant Sal Carmona. They’d gathered to emphasize once again the dangers of leaving children in hot cars as summer arrives.
Kim Waruneck, executive director of the Humane Society of Harlingen, also urged people not to leave pets inside hot cars.
“We want people to think about pets when they’re out in the heat,” Waruneck said. “If there’s no need to have them with you, leave them at home.”
Saenz said everyone must be vigilant about not leaving children in hot cars.
“It’s not even June and it’s already been over 100 degrees,” he said. “It’s going to be a long, hot summer here in South Texas.”
With the arrival of the summer months, children will be staying home. Parents will sometimes need to take children with them on errands.
“Do not leave your child unattended in a vehicle,” Saenz said.
He emphasized that leaving a child in the car while a parent runs inside to pick up something isn’t acceptable. A few minutes may take longer than they think. For example, they may find a line waiting for them and they end up staying longer. By the time they return to the vehicle, a tragedy may be waiting for them.
“Babies rely on parents to take care of them,” Saenz said.
Some tragedies have occurred when a parent forgot a baby was in the back seat.
Carmona suggested parents leave a cell phone or other item in the back seat next to the baby. When they reach for the item, they’ll be reminded of the baby’s presence. Conversely, keep a child’s stuffed animal in the front seat as a reminder.
Saenz urged the public to be proactive about protecting children in hot cars.
“If you walk by a vehicle with a child in it, don’t just keep walking and think somebody will take care of it,” Saenz said. “Break the window if you have to. Call 911.”