A Volusia County woman was brought to tears Tuesday after she returned to her car to see her 8-month-old son still alive and healthy after she left him inside with the windows closed.
Accompanying her baby, however, was a Volusia County deputy.
Meagen Burgess, 33, faces a charge of child neglect, according to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office. She told deputies she thought she dropped all three of her kids off at their father’s house and didn’t know her youngest son was still with her, according to a post on the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.
Deputies say Burgess’ child was locked inside her car for only a few minutes before another woman, Jessica Kaiser, saw the child, was able to open an unlocked door to filter in cooler air, and called 911. About 24 minutes passed between Kaiser’s call and Burgess returning to her car from a store, deputies said. It was 93 degrees outside at the time.
"I challenge anyone, an adult, to sit in a car for 24 minutes, at 3:00 in the afternoon — with the sun blazing down — and see what the end result would be," said Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, who responded to Kaiser’s call.
Upon returning to her car, tears filled Burgess’ eyes as she embraced Kaiser, asking if her son was okay. Kaiser can be seen in the video reassuring Burgess while her husband looks on in the background. She has been released from jail with no bail set, but cannot have contact with her son until a case is complete, according to Fox 35 Orlando.
On average, 37 children die each year due to pediatric vehicular heat stroke, according to the National Safety Council. Last year, 42 children died.
There have been 83 pediatric vehicular heat stroke deaths in Florida since 1998, according to the agency. Only Texas (114) has had more pediatric deaths in that time frame, while three states — Alaska, New Hampshire and Vermont — have had none.
Since 1998, 54 percent of child deaths in hot cars occurred because they were "forgotten" by their caregiver, according to the agency.
"Had Jessica Kaiser not come out and been observant like that, we would be discussing the tragedy of an 8-month-old child," Chitwood said. "We can’t hammer home enough how important it is for parents to stay on top of their game and understand that little life is depending on you."