published Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Witness 'did the right thing' with 911 call to Cleveland, Tenn., police about child in car

Vehicle-related child overheating deaths

1998-2011

* Tennessee -- 18

* Georgia -- 20

* Alabama -- 9

Source: Jan Null, meteorologist with San Francisco State University Department of Geosciences

The witness who called police Monday to report that a small boy was alone in a vehicle in Cleveland, Tenn., might have saved his life, police said.

"The witness did the right thing in calling the police to the scene," Cleveland police Officer Evie West said. "Whenever anyone sees a child left alone in a car, they should immediately dial 911 for officers."

The boy's mother, Danielle Marie Lucas, 23, was arrested and charged with one count of child abuse and neglect after the witness found the boy alone and crying in the unlocked SUV. Lucas said her son wasn't feeling well and was asleep, so she left him in the car and expected to be gone only a few minutes.

West said parents should never leave their children alone in a vehicle.

"These situations are becoming more common because people are thinking it is OK," she said. "However, it is not OK to leave a child in a car by themselves. It is dangerous for various health reasons and can be dangerous because of child abduction."

Five children have died in Tennessee so far this year after being left in vehicles. In June, two brothers died from overheating in Bradley County after police said their mother, Tasha Bates, 26, left the 5-year-old and 3-year-old in a hot car. Bates was charged with two counts of felony murder.

The three other deaths occurred in Smyrna, where a brother and sister died, and in Donelson, a Nashville suburb.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Lt. John Harmon said one phone call can stop a dangerous situation before it turns deadly.

"A phone call like this could save a child's life or save a child from being kidnapped, taken, or possibly being injured," he said.

He said that, after calling 911, the witness should stay with the vehicle -- whether or not the doors are locked -- until the local authorities arrive. He added that leaving a child alone in a vehicle is never safe.

"Not even for just a few minutes," he said. "Anything can happen in a minute."

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury joined the Times Free Press as a business reporter in January 2013, after starting with the paper as a general assignment intern in July 2012. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint Hill Times. Outside the newsroom, Shelly enjoys ...

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