Oceanside, CA (September 2014)—Faith Hammes, 33, was leaving the Oceanside Mottino YMCA after a class when a situation began to unfold in the parking lot. A two year-old boy was sitting buckled in his car seat when his mother accidentally locked her car, leaving him, the car keys and her mobile phone inside.
Hammes recounted that the mother borrowed a mobile phone from a passerby to call 911 while they ran to the YMCA to ask for help. When the passerby returned, the mother was already off the phone and seemed very upset. She was told that an emergency crew would not be responding. At this point, the Oceanside Police Department was contacted, and two volunteer police officers were dispatched. Upon arriving at the scene, the volunteer officers approached the car and advised the distressed mother to call her insurance company.
LOCAL HERO. Faith Hammes, 38, with 8 year-old son Zion and 2 year-old daughter Sage.
Equally distressed as the mother, Hammes realized that even if the insurance company responded to the mother’s call, there was no guarantee someone would arrive in time to save the toddler. With the child already trapped in the car for 10 minutes in 90-degree heat, Hammes knew that every minute spent waiting was critical to his safe rescue.
“There were a lot of people standing around the car and trying to help,” Hammes recalled. “There were some parents, including the mom whose child was trapped in the car, who took turns trying to break the driver’s side window with a tire iron—with no luck.”
After watching the scene unfold from across the parking lot and realizing the mother would not be receiving help from law enforcement anytime soon, Hammes stepped into action.
She quickly retrieved a small car escape tool called resqme from her car’s glove box that she remembers buying for emergency situations such as this.
“I grabbed my two year-old daughter, Sage, and ran as fast as I could. All I could think about was the blistering heat inside the car, the time that must have elapsed (10 minutes or more) and the traumatic pounding of the tire iron on the window for the child,” Hammes said. “When I got back to the scene, I yelled ‘I have a tool, let me try!’ It took seconds for me to break and smash the back window opposite the toddler—I couldn’t believe how easy and effective a small tool like resqme could be!”
Once the driver’s-side front window was smashed, the door was unlocked and the boy was safely taken out of the car by his mother. Cheers and claps broke out around Hammes. “Both the mom and I burst into tears at that moment. I asked if everyone was okay and then focused on my daughter, knowing how scary this all must have been for her.”
The incident is one of several cases of children being left inside vehicles throughout the country. According to nonprofit KidsAndCars.org, 26 child deaths have been reported due to heatstroke while trapped in hot cars this year. In neighboring City of Vista, Hammes’ cousin, Brendan, who works as an engineer in the city’s Fire Department, confirmed that their department responds two to four times per month to calls about a child being trapped in a hot car.
While the month of September has officially been deemed “Child Passenger Safety Month” to raise public awareness about the proper way to safely secure children in car seats, there is no month devoted to educating parents and children on how to escape from a locked car on a hot day.
“Something needs to be done about this happening in our area,” Hammes said. “I am not going to rest until I am assured that 911 protocol will be different next time there is a family in need.”