Twelve-year-old Ben Theriot didn’t think he’d be performing an act of heroism when he joined his mother on Tuesday, August 13th, for a quick trip to a ROSS clothing store in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
As Theriot and his mother, Nikki Fields, walked through the shopping plaza’s parking lot, Fields heard the cries of an infant coming from a nearby car.
Tulsa police said the heat index for that day was 116 degrees Fahrenheit.
Panicking, Fields called the police while Theriot began searching his mother’s car for something that could free the crying two-year-old boy from the car’s backseat.
Unable to find anything else, Theriot used a ratchet strap from Field’s car to hit the windows of the car the toddler was trapped in. Since doing so merely dented the car’s windows, Theriot moved onto bashing the car’s front windshield. He was determined to save the boy from suffering any sort of heat-induced injury.
As Theriot’s repeated hitting bore a hole in the vehicle’s windshield, an employee from a nearby store brought him part of a clothing rack, which he used to create a hole big enough to crawl through the windshield and carry the distressed toddler out by unlocking one of the doors from the inside.
Authorities eventually arrived at the scene. They found the two-year-old red-faced and upset, but unharmed. Paramedics at the scene determined the little one was well enough to not go to the hospital.
Police found the mother of the baby shopping at ROSS. They issued her a $250 ticket for leaving her young son unattended in a vehicle in “extreme weather” conditions and “inadequate ventilation,” under the Forget Me Not Safety Ordinance.
The mother told police the incident was an accident and that another adult was supposed to be in the car watching him. Police questioned why she shut off and locked the car if that was the case.
Since her two-year-old son did not experience any kind of injury, police were unable to arrest the toddler’s mother for child neglect.
Theriot and Fields told Fox23 News they were relieved the child is okay. Fields also said she’s “very proud” of her son for acting on Good Samaritan impulse.
A Stroke of Luck
Theriot’s brave feat saved a life. The two-year-old he rescued was lucky to be spotte. Other families aren’t as fortunate.
Last year marked the worst year for vehicular heatstroke deaths. A record-breaking number of 53 children lost their lives from being accidentally left in a hot car for too long.
As of this year, 32 children have died from vehicular heatstroke, according to nonprofit Kids and Cars. The number is expected to rise even higher.
Though the technology to prevent these deaths from occurring is available, there’s no standard that requires all cars to have it. But child safety advocacy groups and animal advocacy groups are working to mandate this life-saving technology will eventually appear in all cars.
Oklahoma is one out of 39 US states with Good Samaritan laws protecting children or pets from dying from vehicular-induced hypo- or hyperthermia. These Good Samaritan laws protect citizens from civil liability if they break into another person’s car to save a trapped animal or child.
Oklahoma is also one of the 19 states that consider leaving children alone in a vehicle under extreme heat or cold illegal. Despite the vast majority of states with Good Samaritan laws that allow civilians to intervene if a child or pet is trapped in a hot car, a minority of states deem the act of leaving a child or animal unattended in a vehicle illegal.
Baby Saved From Hot Car – Sources
Kids and Cars: State Laws
Fox News: 12 year-old boy breaks into car to save locked toddler inside