Lacey Guyton, 25, was visiting her grandmother in Waterford, Michigan with her infant daughter, Raina, on Saturday when tragedy struck.
Guyton put Raina into her minivan along with her diaper bag, and the doors locked. Normally, Guyton’s key fob would have been able to open the front door of the car (as it is a push-to-start vehicle), but the fob malfunctioned, leaving Raina locked inside the vehicle alone.
CBS This Morning reported that the outside temperature at the time was 85 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that the interior of the car could reach approximately 120, according to HeatKills.org. Awareness of the dangers of leaving children in hot cars has been spreading lately, as over 36 children die in hot cars each year on average.
Guyton’s grandmother immediately called 911, knowing of the dangers.
The 911 dispatcher did not give the expected response for such an urgent situation.
She told Guyton’s grandmother that protocol did not allow her to dispatch officers for locked vehicles and that she needed to call a towing company instead. When Guyton called 911 back herself, she was told the same thing and that she would need to pay for the towing service.
By then, her daughter had stopped crying and was closing her eyes.
“(A)t this point I didn’t know if she was going to sleep or if my baby was dying.” She said. Guyton called the towing company but started her own efforts of getting Raina out of the car.
The mother used a window breaker to eventually shatter the back window of the minivan and climb in to rescue Raina. At that point, the child had been locked in the minivan for 15 minutes total: a dangerous amount of time considering the high temperatures and the child’s tender age of two months.
When the towing company arrived 12 minutes after the child had been removed, Guyton knew that they would have been too late to save her otherwise.
In a viral Facebook post, she described her fear.
Upon finding out about the story, the Waterford Police Department issued a statement in which they apologized and promised more training among the dispatchers. The policy that doesn’t allow for officers to open locked cars is not supposed to apply to situations in which a person, particularly a child, is in danger.
While there is no law against police opening locked cars in Michigan, departments often implement such a policy in order to reserve resources for emergencies only. Guyton’s situation was, in fact, an emergency, so the policy should not have affected the help she received.
Waterford Chief-of Police Scott Underwood stated that, although training shouldn’t have been necessary in deeming this an emergency, the dispatcher will undergo more training in order to better judge similar incidents. Underwood also offered to pay for Guyton’s car repair in an act of apology.
Lacey Guyton says that she is spreading the word of her story in order to help others who might come across similarly terrifying situations. She wants others to know that the back window of a car is the easiest to break during a time-sensitive lockout.
“If anyone else is ever in a situation like this, don’t waste your time trying to break the side windows," she wrote on Facebook, "just go right for the back windshield."