On Friday afternoon a mom learned a tough lesson.
When she nipped in to a centrally located grocery store to pick up some butter real quick she left her two young children in her van.
She said she parked in a shady spot and the vehicle was visible to her from inside the store.
“This was a big lesson for me, I’ll never leave my kids where I wouldn’t leave a million dollars,” she said.
A bystander saw the children in the locked car and called 911.
Calling 911 was the right thing for the bystander to do, says Sault Ste. Marie Police Service Staff Sgt. Jane Martynuck.
But, she added, removing a child from a locked car should be left to emergency services unless the child is in immediate danger, such as passed out or in obvious distress.
If the children are awake and alert it is probably best to wait for emergency services, who have the tools and expertise to open locked cars.
“As fire and police, we have the authority and can certainly do that,” said Martynuck.
The bystander said the children were in the car for 10 to 15 minutes before the mother returned with her groceries.
The mother disputes that claim, saying she only ran in for butter and left the van windows open about three inches.
“Just enough so no one can unlock the doors,” said the mother, who contacted SooToday.com and asked not to be identified by name.
The danger of heat stroke and death are among many reasons children should not be left alone in cars even for short periods, according to city police.
The chance an unattended child may be injured or abducted is something that parents should also keep in mind, said Martynuck.
“Any time of the year you shouldn’t be leaving the kids unattended in the vehicle for a lot of those other reasons,” she said.
Emergency calls for children locked in hot cars are not common in the Sault, but are treated very seriously.
“As a parent, yeah it is an inconvenience to load and unload. When you’re running errands and you have kids that is the reality of what it is like. You get tired and frustrated but at the end of the day don’t leave the kids in the vehicle,” said Martynuck.
The mother returned to her car just before fire trucks arrived, said Sault Ste. Marie Fire Service Acting Captain Anthony Nero, who was on the scene.
Had the mother not returned, “our job would be to get the children out as soon as we can,” said Nero.
He said information about the incident, including the license plate of the vehicle, was passed on to city police.
Martynuck said in a case such as this, the parent or guardian of the children would likely receive a caution and Children’s Aid Society would be contacted.
The mother left the scene before police could arrive, but they visited her later in the day at her home.
“I can’t believe she just got to drive away like that,” said the bystander, who contacted authorities about the incident.
The bystander also declined to give her name, but said she would call 911 again in a similar situation.
“In a heartbeat,” said the bystander.
Editor's note: file photo showing a baby's toes does not depict either of the children refered to in the story above.