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Wednesday, September 28, 2022
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5 Children Left in Hot Car; Man Arrested


Fort Worth Police Unit | Image by WFAA

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A Fort Worth man was arrested for allegedly leaving five children in a parked car last week as temperatures neared triple digits outside.

The car was parked with the engine running but without air conditioning, when officers discovered and removed the children, ages 1,2,4,5, and 6, from the vehicle, several were either sleeping or unconscious, the police said.

At the scene, MedStar Urgent Care confirmed the children were suffering from heat exhaustion.

The father, Jose Leal, 29, was arrested. He faced five counts of abandonment/endangerment to a child/bodily injury.

“In temperatures like we’re seeing right now in North Texas, the inside of that vehicle in a matter of minutes can go to 140, 150 degrees,” said Medstar’s Matt Zavadsky. The high on Sunday was 99 degrees.

He said this means “the body temperature of the child inside that car is going to go to 104, 105 degrees.” He explained that the child’s vital organs, including the brain, heart, and kidneys, “cannot function at that level of temperature.”

MedStar units have treated 14 patients found in hot cars in the Tarrant County area since May 1. All were six years old or younger.

“We’ve had kids that have been left in shopping mall parking lots,” Zavadsky said. “We’ve had kids that climbed into an unlocked vehicle, and the parents didn’t even know it.”

The number of similar incidents so far this year has been unusual, according to MedStar.

“We’ve often wondered why there’s been such an increase,” Zavadsky said, adding it might be because many people have moved to the area, who “aren’t used to this kind of weather, perhaps, and where they came from might not have been as hot.”

He added, “Secondly, parents today are very distracted.”

MedStar offered suggestions for keeping children safe from dangerous situations such as these.

“These things can happen to anyone, so following those instructions is crucial, no matter who you are, how great of a parent you are, how great of a grandparent you are, or any caretaker,” Zavadsky said. “Taking these simple steps will help prevent us from having to respond to that type of call.”

Create a reminder to check the back seat.

Put something you’ll need, like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or briefcase, etc., in the back seat so that you have to open the back door to retrieve that item every time you park.

Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. When the child is placed in the car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that the child is in the back seat.

Keep car keys and remote openers out of reach of children.

If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. Call 911 immediately. If the child seems hot or sick, get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible.

KidsAndCars.org educates parents and raises public awareness about the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles. The organization is not alone in its concern; car manufacturers are addressing the problem, too.

Some vehicles sold today come equipped with rear occupant alert systems. Toyota has developed radar technology that detects the heartbeats of both people and pets in the back seat.

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