A woman was arrested in Riverside on Wednesday after allegedly deserting her 3-year-old son for nearly an hour in a parked car.
The toddler was unharmed but sat in an idling Toyota RAV4 in the parking lot at Parkview Community Hospital Medical Center for about 55 minutes before he was rescued by police, Riverside Police Officer Ryan Railsback said.
Officials received a call about the child around 4:20 p.m. Temperatures in Riverside reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit at 4 p.m., according to Weather Underground.
The child’s mother, who authorities have declined to publicly identify, told police she thought the child would be safe with the ignition on and air conditioning running while she went inside for a doctor’s appointment. The car’s doors were also unlocked, officers confirmed.
However, temperatures inside the SUV were still warm and it took emergency crews five minutes to get a response from the little boy, who was “sleeping but unconscious,” according to Railsback.
“Even when it is running and it is comfortable in there but it’s unlocked you risk the chance of your car being stolen or something happening to your child,” he said.
Police say the mother, who is 24 years old, could face felony child endangerment charges. Although there wasn’t an apparent attempt to harm the child, similar situations have proven deadly, investigators said.
An average of 37 children die each year in hot cars, and a total of 31 children are confirmed to have died of heat-related illness so far in 2017, according to safety organization Kids and Cars. The death of a 3-year-old boy left in a day care van this week in Orlando is poised to become the 32nd case.
The Riverside mother was extremely remorseful and has no history with Child Protective Service, according to Railsback.
The Riverside Police Department in continuing to investigate the incident.