A San Diego mother, arrested for leaving her 4-month-old daughter in a car while shopping, was released from custody after posting bail.
On Tuesday at 3:10 p.m., police said, a maintenance worker noticed a child locked in a sedan with the windows rolled up and called 911. The National City police and fire departments immediately arrived at the scene, a parking lot in front of a clothing store in a strip mall on East Plaza Boulevard.
A police officer and a witness forced open a rear window to retrieve the child, who was unresponsive and covered in sweat, National City Police Sgt. Julian Villagomez said.
According to Villagomez, the 25-year-old mother, Starley Geart, left the store moments later. She appeared to be confused.
Although Geart claimed to have been in the store for a minute, surveillance tapes show Geart in the store for approximately nine minutes.
Firefighters subsequently locked the car for 10 minutes and measured the temperature at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, Villagomez said.
"We all need to be very careful," he said. "Here in California we have beautiful weather… it was 75 degrees but that temperature can nearly double in a locked car in minutes. We need to be very careful and not leave kids or pets unattended."
According to Villagomez, Geart was arrested for felony child endangerment and booked into Las Colinas Detention Facility, while her daughter was taken to Rady Children's Hospital. The child was released and placed in protective custody.
Since the victim is a minor, neither Rady Children's Hospital nor San Diego County Child Welfare Services could comment on the specifics of the case.
Geart was released Wednesday after posting bail. Arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 1.
Last year 33 children in the nation died of heat-related injuries after being left unattended in cars, according to Dr. Keith Vaux, Hospital Medicine Specialist at Rady Children's Hospital and a professor at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. Children, especially under the age of 1, are particularly susceptible to heat-related injuries since they have a harder time regulating their body temperatures.
Vaux said that as children's temperatures rise, their bodies will attempt to get rid of excess heat by sweating and turning red. As their temperatures climb, they will begin losing brain function, have seizures, and eventually go into shock.
Vaux encourages new parents to get into the habit of checking the backseat before leaving a car. Putting items such as a wallet or purse in the backseat can help remind parents to look behind them.
Even on mild days cars heat up quickly, with temperatures rising 30-40 degrees in minutes, Vaux said.
"If you see a child unattended you need to call 911 immediately, and if it's more than a few minutes you need to find a way to get inside that car," Vaux said.