Florida car rental staff find toddler locked inside returned vehicle

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Kids in hot cars: How long does it take before it becomes deadly?
WATCH: On a hot day, it can take as little as one hour for the interior of a car to get hot enough to be deadly for a two-year-old child – Jun 4, 2019

A Florida grandfather has been arrested and charged after he returned a rental car and employees later found his granddaughter — a toddler — in the backseat.

According to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, employees at Hertz car rental at Daytona Beach International Airport discovered the young child on Monday evening. She was locked in the car, which had been returned about 45 minutes earlier to an unshaded parking lot.

Airport deputies quickly responded and “arrived to find the employee carrying the child, whose face was warm and streaked with dried tears, but was breathing normally,” the sheriff’s office said. The girl was checked by paramedics, and was determined to be fine.

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The toddler sits with a Hertz employee while an officer checks her temperature with the back of his hand in the CCTV footage. Courtesy / Volusia County Sheriff's Office

Police said that not long after the girl, who is under the age of two, was discovered, her mother called to say that her father had accidentally left her daughter in the rental car while he was babysitting. Deputies said he had initially told the mother her daughter had been left at his home while he returned the car.

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David Towner, 62, of Port Orange was later charged with one count of child neglect and transported to the Volusia County Branch Jail. He has expressed remorse for his actions and has cooperated fully with deputies.

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“We’re grateful for the actions of our Hertz teammates and glad the child is safe,” a Hertz spokesperson told Newsweek.

The temperature in the parking lot was approximately 27 C at the time and it’s well-documented that temperatures can rise rapidly inside a car on a warm day, often climbing to much higher than the outside temperature.

The Canadian Safety Council says that within 20 minutes the air temperature in a previously air-conditioned car exposed to the sun in 35 C can exceed 50 C. Within 40 minutes the temperature can soar to 65 C.

According to the website No Heat Stroke, which tracks deaths in hot cars in the U.S., 29 children have died of vehicular heatstroke in 2022, and 23 died in 2021. The website has found that about half of hot car deaths happen when a caregiver forgets the child in the car.

Sheriff Mike Chitwood said he will be issuing citizens awards to the car rental employees involved in the incident.

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