After a quick-thinking bystander noticed a baby boy in the back seat of a car on a hot Florida day, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said, "We avoided a disaster."
"Thank the Lord for a good Samaritan," he said. The baby is safe and the mother has been arrested for child neglect.
The close call began Tuesday afternoon in a strip-mall parking lot in Orange City when Jessica Kaiser, a passerby, saw what looked like a doll in the back seat of a car, the Volusia County Sheriff's Office said.
They said she realized it was a real baby and called 911.
She and her husband opened the unlocked door and found the baby boy was in his car seat and was OK, the sheriff's office said.
The temperature reached 93 degrees Tuesday with a heat index, which gauges what it felt like, of 103 degrees.
Deputies and firefighters arrived and determined the 8-month-old "was in good health and good spirits," the sheriff's office said, adding that he had not been in the car long before Kaiser and her husband found him.
The little boy was smiling and laughing with the firefighters who were attending to him, Volusia County Sheriff's Office spokesman Andrew Gant told ABC News. But they said if he hadn't been found early, the situation could have been worse.
The baby's mother, 33-year-old Meagan Burgess, arrived back at the car about 24 minutes after the 911 call was made, the sheriff's office said.
"If not discovered, he would have been left unsupervised in an unlocked black vehicle, parked on black asphalt parking lot, in 93 degree weather for approximately twenty-four minutes," the sheriff's office said.
When Burgess returned, she told the deputies on the scene she forgot the baby was in the car, as she had just dropped off several other children with a family member.
She said leaving the baby in the car "as her worst fear" and that she had "seen people do this on the news," the sheriff's office said.
Burgess was arrested and charged with child neglect, the sheriff's office said. She made her first court appearance Wednesday.
The Florida Department of Children and Families was notified, the sheriff's office said.
"We can't hammer home enough how important it is for parents to say on top of their game and understand that that little life is depending on you," Sheriff Chitwood said Wednesday. "It's people like Jessica Kaiser, by being aware of their surroundings, who saved that young baby's life, and I couldn't be more proud."
Children's bodies can heat up much faster than adults' and their internal organs begin to shut down after their core body temperature reaches 104 degrees, according to a report from the National Safety Council. On an 86-degree day, for example, it would take only about 10 minutes for the inside of a car to reach a dangerous 105 degrees.
According to the advocacy group kidsandcars.org, there have been 25 hot car deaths this year.