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Harrowing police body cam footage shows how potential hot car tragedy was averted

By Manuel Crespo Feliciano, Accuweather en Español staff writer
August 14, 2019, 1:17:35 PM EDT


Officials in Florida this week released police body camera footage showing the harrowing moments after a woman accidentally locked her 10-month-old daughter in her SUV last month and an officer eventually broke into the vehicle and rescued the trapped child.

For many parents, it is unimaginable to leave their son or daughter locked inside a vehicle. The idea terrifies them and many parents believe it's a mistake they simply will not make.

However, according to the experience of some parents who have been through situation like this, a simple oversight or and unexpected distraction can sometimes be all it takes to put them through such a terrible odyssey.

"I went around to all the doors and they were all locked. My mind couldn't process it was actually happening. She was bright red, she was covered in sweat," said Christina Tufford, whose daughter, Maddy, was trapped for several minutes inside the vehicle. The incident occurred in July, according to CBS 12, in Stuart -- about 40 miles north of West Palm Beach.

Tufford recalls that after strapping her 10-month-old daughter Maddy into the back seat, starting the car and turning on the air conditioner, she closed the back door and the car instantly locked.

Searching for possible solutions, Tufford tried calling Onstar, a company that provides services to car owners such as the ability to remotely open cars, roadside assistance, medical emergency support, among other services. But Tufford's account was expired and Onstar representatives couldn't help remotely unlock the vehicle.

"Onstar told me that in order for them to help me open the locks on my car, I would had to be able to push the blue button inside on the vehicle, but I couldn't because it was locked," Tufford said.

As time went by, the mother's despair increased as she saw that her little daughter was inside the vehicle. After 10 minutes the vehicle turned off and the situation worsened. Looking into the vehicle, Tufford saw Maddy's eyes were closed and she appeared unresponsive.

“I kept looking at her and realized she wasn't responding to the noise. I thought I was going to lose my kid,” recalled Tufford.

Vehicular Heatstroke data 1


By then the police were already in place and with the help of a good Samaritan an officer managed to break the front window of the vehicle with a hammer. He then unlocked the SUV and removed little Maddy from the vehicle.

“This mom did absolutely nothing wrong. She accidentally left her keys in the vehicle and the vehicle locked. She did everything she possibly could to get her child out as quickly as possible,” said Sergeant Brian Bossil, who helped during the rescue.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a child's body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult's. Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches about 104 degrees. A core body temperature of about 107 degrees is lethal.

Erin Holley

Activist Erin Holley is an activist has been vocal about preventing vehicular heatstroke and promoting the proposed law known as The Hot Cars Act of 2019. (Photo provided by Erin Holley)


Since 1990, more than 900 children have died in the U.S. after being forgotten inside a vehicle, according to KidsAndCars.org.

So far this year, 32 deaths have occurred.

Faced with this reality, activists such as Erin Holley, who appeared on the AccuWeather last week to discuss her experience, seek congressional approval of a proposed law known as The Hot Cars Act of 2019.

This bill, introduced by U.S. Representative Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio, seeks to require that all new passenger motor vehicles must be equipped with a system to detect the presence of an occupant in a rear designated seating position after the vehicle engine or motor is deactivated.

“I would never have believed that I would need technology to protect against this,” Holley admitted in the interview with AccuWeather broadcast meteorologists Laura Velasquez and Bernie Rayno.

In the meantime, these discussions and public pressure are already showing results.

Automotive companies such as Nissan, General Motors and Hyundai are incorporating safety systems that help prevent such accidents.

In the case of the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV, there is a system. If a rear door is opened and closed and the car is turned on, the driver will get a visual and audible rear-seat reminder alert when the car is turned off and the driver begins to exit the vehicle.

Also, if the vehicle is locked and the ultrasonic sensor detects movement in the rear seat, the horn will honk on and off for approximately 25 seconds, according to an article published by KidAndCars.

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