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Officials urge people to act if they see a child alone in a car

EPS show how hot it can get inside a vehicle. File / Global News

EDMONTON- Family care experts say children being left unattended in vehicles is not as uncommon as one might think, and are urging people to act if they see a child left alone.

“I would not suggest that this is an epidemic problem, but it is not an uncommon problem and we do see it with some familiarity,” said Thomas Sutton with Edmonton & Area Child & Family Services, “and we see it throughout the year.”

On Tuesday night, a three-year-old girl died after being found in a hot vehicle in northeast Edmonton. Also on Tuesday, three boys, between the ages of two and six, were left inside a vehicle outside of a Home Depot in south Edmonton. The boys were safely removed from the vehicle.

One Texas mother knows all too well, the pain of losing a child.

“Our tragedy is the result of one wrong turn,” Kristie Reeves-Cavaliero said via Skype Wednesday afternoon.

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Cavaliero’s one-year-old daughter died in May 2011, after being left alone in a pickup truck. That morning, she says her family had overslept, and was scrambling to get ready for the day. Cavaliero’s husband was driving their daughter to daycare, when instead of turning toward the daycare, he turned the other direction and headed to work.

“There are some days that are better than others and there are some days that are bad. And then there are other days that are so painful that it’s really hard to climb out of bed,” Cavaliero explained.

Officials receive dozens of calls each year, about children being left alone in vehicles.

“Sometimes it’s a function of convenience, to leave a child unattended in a vehicle,” Sutton explained.

He says whether it’s a hot day or not, anyone who sees a child alone inside a vehicle should call 911.

“Regardless of the circumstances, it is a machine, it has many different moving parts. Children that are unsupervised can injure themselves, they can inadvertently start the vehicle, place the vehicle in motion. Certainly they are at risk potentially of also being being taken if they are left unattended in those circumstances.

“They should be calling 911 and they should be remaining with that child until emergency services arrive,” he explained. “I do appreciate the hesitancy, but the child’s life and security must outweigh that.”

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Sutton says officials try to educate parents and raise awareness of the dangers of leaving a child alone in a vehicle, in hopes of getting the message through.

“Is a moment of convenience worth a lifetime of regret?”

When criminal charges don’t apply, there are still penalties for those who leave children unattended in vehicles. Under the Child Youth and Family Enhancement Act, people can face a $25,000 fine, 24 months in prison, or both.

With files from Ross Neitz, Global News.

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