Two small children were freed from a hot car by passersby in a Houston suburb on Monday. The children were in the back seat of a black Jeep parked in a shopping center in Katy as temperatures hovered above 90 degrees, according to Houston TV station KHOU.
Gabriel Del Valle, who witnessed the event, told KHOU that he and other people nearby could hear the kids crying and decided to use a hammer to shatter the car window and get the kids out. “I mean you would understand,” Del Valle told KHOU. “It’s real hot.” After several minutes, the kids were freed and, KHOU reported, “appeared unharmed.”
According to KHOU, the mother of the children said she left them in the car while she was getting a haircut. Police were not called.
Update: KHOU reported late Tuesday that additional witnesses had stepped forward to say that the children’s mother had accidentally locked her keys in the car after shopping at a Postal+ store. The owner of that store also provided surveillance tape footage of the mother shopping with her children and then coming back without them, seemingly asking for help.
Leaving a child in a car in Texas is a Class C misdemeanor. [More reading: “Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime?" Gene Weingarten’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Post Magazine feature from 2009.]
As temperatures rise in the summer months, mortal instances of children left in cars are back in the news. In Georgia, authorities are looking into whether a man left his child to die in a car on purpose, in order to collect life insurance.
Just last week, police in Connecticut say a 15-month-old boy died when he was left unattended. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that more than three dozen children die of hyperthermia in cars each year in the United States.
Del Valle captured the Texas incident on his cellphone camera and shared it with KHOU: