A Florida mother was denied adequate help from a 911 dispatcher when her son accidentally locked himself inside of her car on an extremely hot afternoon. Shana Dees had just left a drug store when she strapped Jack, her 10-month-old son, into his car seat and shut the door. Seconds later she heard the doors lock and remembered Jack had her keys in his hand. In a “controlled” state of desperation she called 911 for assistance in rescuing Jack from the blazing temperatures inside the hot car.
Dees explained her emergency to the dispatcher and asked if someone could come and open the door to free her son. To her surprise the dispatch agent told her they would not be able to “try and gain access to the vehicle unless the child was in some kind of distress.” Dees said this is when she started to really panic, she was watching her son turn red with sweat flooding his face. She knew the car was heating up pretty quickly.
Eight minutes after the, now-frantic, mother’s initial 911 plea for help an off-duty officer saw her and noticed something was seriously wrong. Dees relayed to the officer what she had been told by the dispatcher when she called for help; she was visibly distraught. The officer made another call to 911 and thankfully was connected to an agent who gave her a different response.
The second dispatcher explained that the mother was given false information and put in a call for immediate assistance because they were running out of time. With temperatures in the car continuing to heat up another shopper stopped to help and then used a wrench to break the car window and rescue the toddler. With temperatures inside of a closed car having the ability to soar nearly 30 degrees in just 15 minutes left them with no other option.
Dees is grateful that her son was saved and did not fall victim to the tragedy which has claimed so many young lives. She expressed appreciation for the officer that helped, the man who allowed her to use his cell phone and the onlooker that used a wrench to break the window.
Police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said the dispatcher handled the situation poorly and will be disciplined. Tampa police is launching an investigation and said the agent should have been more aggressive and at least asked for a location. Davis also noted the dispatcher did not say an officer could not be sent but out of desperation Dees ended the call.
On average, 38 children die in hot cars each year from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside motor vehicles. Far too many children have been inadvertently forgotten in hot vehicles or have gotten into a vehicle on their own. Even the most responsible parents or guardians can mistakenly leave a sleeping baby in a car or as in this mother’s case; forget their child was playing with the keys. Regardless of the reason, vehicular heat stroke tragedies change the lives of parents, families, and communities forever.
Shana Dees is overjoyed for a happy ending to a forgettable experience. Her son locked himself inside of the car and threw his mom into an instant state of fear. She called 911 for assistance in getting the car opened and Jack rescued but was denied adequate help from a dispatcher. Thanks to good citizens who stepped in to help her, Jack is now alive and well in his mother’s care.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)