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Woman charged with leaving child in a vehicle

Parents, caregivers advised to never leave child alone in car

Police were called to the Walmart in Comstock Park on Saturday, May 21, at 6:18 p.m., on a report of a child left in a vehicle.

Kent County Deputy Ysquierdo arrived on scene and found a 2-year-old girl in the back of a running car. He was unable to awaken her, and it appeared she had a red face and was sweaty. When he forced his way into the car, the child began to wake up. She was transferred to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital with signs of heat exhaustion, but is expected make a full recovery.

The child’s grandmother, Karol Anne Fitzgerald, 71, of Stanton, was found shopping in Walmart. On May 25, the Kent County Prosecutor’s office charged Fitzgerald with one count of leaving a child in an unattended vehicle, which is a 93 days misdemeanor. On May 26, she was arrested and released on a $500 surety bond.

A referral was made to Child Protective Services.

This type of scenario happens more often than you might expect, many with tragic outcomes.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, as of May 17, six children had already died in the U.S. from suffering heat stroke in a car. On average, 37 deaths a year occur for that reason.

“We know from past experience that fatalities can happen anytime, anywhere, including in moderate temperatures,” said Nick Lyon, director of MDHHS. “We don’t want to see this happen to any family. That’s why we are asking everyone to help protect kids from this very preventable tragedy by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute.”

It doesn’t have to be the middle of the summer for a child to get overheated. Even with seemingly mild temperatures outside, the temperatures inside a car can rise 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes. A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than adult’s, making them more susceptible to heat stroke. Temperatures inside a car can easily be double the temperature outside.

MDHHS said we can cut down the number of deaths and near misses by remembering to ACT.

A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own.

C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.

T: Take action. If you see or hear a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.

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