Young girl, disabled boy left in sweltering car as dad shopped, cops say
HANOVER — Police say earlier this month they rescued two young children from a locked vehicle as outside temperatures were above 90 degrees.
Sgt. Anthony Vitanza, Officer Michael Byrnes and Officer Daniel Acquaro responded to a Wegmans at about 6:30 p.m. on July 5, where they found a 6-year-old boy with a developmental disability as well as a 4-year-old girl locked in the car, sweating profusely and crying, police said.
The officers gained access to the car, got the children cold water and helped them cool off in patrol vehicles, police said.
Officers made several announcements within the store and 20 minutes later, the children's father came out, they said. He'd been shopping for more than 45 minutes as the children remained locked in the car, police said.
The children were turned over to their mother, and their father was placed into custody, police said. Charges are pending, and police haven't yet released the father's name.
Since 1998, 858 children have died due to being left in hot vehicles in the United States, according to noheatstroke.org, which compiles data from sources including the National Safety Council. Fourteen of those were from New Jersey.
Heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle-related death for children under the age of 14, according to AAA.
“Children are fragile, and they are certainly more susceptible to the heat and hot weather than adults,” spokesperson Tracy Noble previously told New Jersey 101.5. “There could be brain damage, severe dehydration. Their internal organs shut down. So this is a very dangerous situation.”
In another interview, Nobile said on 95-degree day, a car can heat up to more than 180 degrees.
"And it only takes temperatures at 104 degrees for internal organs to start to shut down," she said. "So even in a matter of moments we can have a catastrophe on our hands."
A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s body, meaning that a child can die of heat stroke on a 72-degree day, Noble said.
A heat advisory is in effect starting Sunday, with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees throughout New Jersey.
While New Jersey law doesn’t specifically prohibit leaving a baby or a youngster alone in a car or truck, former Morris County Prosecutor Bob Bianchi has told New Jersey 101.5 doing so will almost always be considered endangering the welfare of a child.
“You’re leaving the child alone with the potential of being abducted or injured and unable to fend for itself, and secondarily you have the heat-related issues as well," Bianchi said.
Last month, in another incident in Seacaucus, two young children had to be rescued from the back of a car where the temperature reached 140 degrees on Friday afternoon, according to police.
And last year, a Lakewood mother was charged after, authorities say, her 21-month-old was left in a hot car in the driveway for more than two hours.