Mom's 911 call to save baby trapped in hot car goes unanswered, police chief apologizes

Posted at 5:44 PM, Aug 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-23 20:33:50-04

WATERFORD, MI — A Michigan police department is apologizing after a mother's frantic 911 call to help her baby locked in a hot car went unanswered.

As Lacey Guyton was leaving her grandmother's home in Waterford on Saturday, she put her 2-month-old daughter, Raina, in her car seat with the diaper bag and shut the door, she said.

Guyton was walking around the car when she heard all the doors lock, and realized that the keys were inside the diaper bag. When she tried using a key fob to unlock the doors, it didn't work, either, she told ABC News on Thursday.

Guyton, 25, said she immediately grabbed a big chunk of asphalt and tried to smash the car window as her grandmother called 911.

Her grandmother told the dispatcher there was a 2-month-old baby in the car, but the dispatcher replied that the department doesn't unlock vehicles or break windows, and instead offered to send a towing company, according to Guyton.

Guyton said she knew she didn't have time for a tow truck, as the car was getting hotter by the moment and her daughter was crying.

Guyton called 911 back and pleaded for the fire department to come and smash the window as her daughter sweated inside, she said. "The fire department doesn't come out for that," the dispatcher said.

The temperature reached 85 degrees in Waterford that day.

The frantic mother tried using a window breaker, but she said the window didn't budge. And that's when Raina stopped crying and her eyes started shutting — Guyton said she didn't "know if she's dying right now or just going to sleep."

Guyton ran to the back windshield and was able to shatter it with the window breaker after one or two hits. She jumped in to grab Raina, who was safe, and the terrifying, roughly 15-minute ordeal came to an end.

Waterford Police Chief Scott Underwood has since apologized for the incident and promised to learn from the "mistake."

"While it is true we do not normally respond when people lock their keys in their vehicle and we do offer to contact a wrecker service for them, this is a completely different situation," Underwood said in a statement Wednesday. "We should have responded in this case and we should respond in any similar case when there is a concern for the health, safety or welfare of any person, especially a young child."

"We acknowledge our mistake and are doing everything we can to make sure we do not repeat it," Underwood said. "We will learn from this and correct the problem."

Guyton said she doesn't blame "the cops themselves or the fire department of Waterford. They didn't even have the chance to come."

"It was the worst day of my life," she said. "It's the most helpless feeling ... the dispatchers, their job is essentially one of the most important ... they are like the lifeline between someone potentially dying and people that are going to go save them. So it's not something to take lightly."

The dispatcher has not been back to work since the incident, the Waterford Police Department said, adding that it will address the situation directly with her through disciplinary processes and remedial training.

At least 35 children have died from being inside hot cars this year in the United States, according to the organization

"It's easy to lock your keys in the car. My daughter just happened to be in there," Guyton said. "Obviously the police department had a policy where they don't unlock cars if the keys are in there but this time is different — there's a baby."

A lot of people around the country have been sharing stories with her about similar incidents, and she said she hopes the same mistake won't be made going forward.

"The protocol in police departments, I think, should be evaluated," she said. "If somebody calls in distress with a child in the car then somebody needs to be sent immediately."