HOUSTON – Every year, there’s one tragedy that continues to happen: Children are left in cars in which temperatures soar and they die of heatstroke.
It happens to almost 40 children a year, and numerous bills are written in an effort to prevent it from taking place and to protect good Samaritans who try to save the victims.
Already this year, two Texas toddlers have died in Kerr County when, authorities said, their mother intentionally left them in a car for 15 hours.
“We had heard that somebody in the house could even hear the kids crying and told her to bring them in the house and she didn’t,” said Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer, of the Kerr County Sheriff's Office.
But sometimes hot car deaths are a tragic accident. Last year, a child died after getting trapped inside a hot car while playing.
The law in Texas states that intentionally leaving a child younger than age 7 unattended in a vehicle for longer than five minutes is a misdemeanor. If the child is injured, then it's considered child endangerment, which is a felony. The penalties are up to two years in jail and a fine up of to $10,000
If you see a child in distress, what do you do?
It’s important to call 911 first, but Houston Junk Car Buyer said if you see the child is in distress, break in through the window corners, not the middle of the window.
“If you break it right here (in the middle), your hand could go through the glass, which is going to hurt you really badly,” said Stephanie Lopez, of Houston Junk Car Buyer.
In addition to that, the middle is too strong to break. KPRC 2 News put two devices to the test.
First, we tried the most available tool: a hammer marketed to break car windows either to save a child or a pet, or to escape during an emergency situation, such as if you're stuck in your car during a flood or crash.
Three years ago, Ecomcrest posted a video to YouTube showing the tool, although the clip has since been removed. The Ecomcrest hammer that KPRC 2 News tried for this report is sold at many hardware stores, but with as much force as one reporter could give, in the spot in which she was instructed to hit (the corner), nothing happened. The company no longer has a website and there is no listed contact information for Ecomcrest.
Next, we attempted a window punch. A window punch is a spring-loaded device from which a piece of metal, almost like a needle, protrudes when someone applies force.
The window punch successfully broke multiple windows during our test, but only when force was applied precisely at the very tip of the window’s corner.
Since most car deaths typically happen in July and August, first responders hope knowing how to use these devices can empower you to prevent more tragedies.
The Jacinto Fire Department donated the window punch for the segment. It is made by Res-Q-Me.
The hardware store Berrings, on Bissonet Street, carries a window punch and the device is typically available online. Places to purchase it include Kids and Cars, esafetysupplies and on Amazon.