Safe Kids Coalition, Ray Ray’s Pledge out to save lives

Ricks: ‘A child’s life is precious’

Brett Cavaliero, wife Kristie Reeves-Cavaliero and, left, Sophia "Ray-Ray" Cavaliero, who died in May 2011 at the age of 1 after being left in a vehicle unattended for several hours.

Brett Cavaliero, wife Kristie Reeves-Cavaliero and, left, Sophia “Ray-Ray” Cavaliero, who died in May 2011 at the age of 1 after being left in a vehicle unattended for several hours.

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

RICHMOND COUNTY — Sophia Jane Goyeneche-Gray, age 13 months.

Jeremiah Kennedy, 13 months.

Cooper Harris, 22 months.

Saving their lives could have been as easy as making a phone call. Richmond County native Kristie Reeves-Cavaliero knows first hand what the indescribable loss of Sophia “Ray-Ray” Cavaliero, who was 1 on May 25, 2011 when her father, Brett Cavaliero left her in a hot car for half his work day. Cavaliero forgot to take his daughter to daycare on his way to work, and his mistake wasn’t discovered until he was at lunch with his wife.

A Texas grand jury chose not to indict Cavaliero on felony charges of abandoning/endangering a child. The family started the day by oversleeping, and it’s possible that simply by being stressed over being late to begin the day’s routines and meet deadlines, one very important part of the day was skipped.

Now a week before July 31 and National Heatstroke Preventation Day, Reeves-Cavaliero refers to what one behavioral psychologist calls “forgotten baby syndrome.”

“This phenomen did not happen until we started moving kids to the back seat,” Reeves-Cavaliero told The Pee Dee Post.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Richmond County Sheriff's Deputy N.L. Forrester, left, Amy Hamilton-Forrester, of FirstHealth Community Services and Rockingham Police Department Cpl. Marcus Ricks promote child safety during Community Safe Celebration on Saturday in Dobbins Heights.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Richmond County Sheriff’s Deputy N.L. Forrester, left, Amy Hamilton-Forrester, of FirstHealth Community Services and Rockingham Police Department Cpl. Marcus Ricks promote child safety during Community Safe Celebration on Saturday in Dobbins Heights.

Reeves-Cavaliero said there’s a direct correlation between rear-facing carseats placed in the back seat and the number of heatstroke-related child deaths. If parents can’t see or hear their children — if they fall asleep — the likelihood of even the best parents forgetting their child increases significantly, Reeves-Cavaliero said.

Reeves-Cavaliero called it “an unintended consequence” of putting children in the back seat — which was done, she acknowledged, to help keep kids safe from air bag deployment.

Reeves-Cavaliero has started RayRay’s Pledge, which works as a promise between parents and caregivers that they’ll call whenever a child isn’t delivered at the prescribed time. Instead of a child being left in a car accidentally for hours, it would simply be a matter of minutes. It would save lives, Reeves-Cavaliero said. The initiative has grasped a foothold in North Carolina and Richmond County, including the Sandhills Children’s Center.

In a detailed presentation (PDF), Reeves-Cavaliero also offers other suggestions on how to curtail child heatstroke deaths, including car seat alarms and the “unattended passenger reminder,” about which a legislative report is due later this year. There is potential to use technology to require performance safety standards in new vehicles that would warn a driver of a backseat presence when the motor is disengaged.

Amy Hamilton-Forrester, outreach manager for FirstHealth Community Services in Richmond County, stood outside in the Belk department store parking lot with Rockingham Police Department’s Cpl. Marcus Ricks, and again Saturday with Ricks and Richmond County Sheriff’s Deputy N.L. Forrester, with a law enforcement vehicle, windows rolled up, doors closed. Together, they watched the temperature inside the car climb.

In about two hours during the Community Safe Celebration on Saturday in Dobbins Heights, the temperature climbed to 143 degrees Fahrenheit.

Regardless of the how and why, Hamilton-Forrester said, it’s time to take measures to prevent this. Parents, she said, shouldn’t let children think it’s okay to play in vehicles. It’s too easy to get locked in, she said, and most cars today lack the hand crank to roll the windows up or down.

Plus, many vehicles are smaller, sleeker and more aerodynamic — which leave less room to breathe, Hamilton-Forrester said.

She agrees that initiatives such as RayRay’s Pledge are needed, if only to begin a conversation.

“Better to call and be safe,” Hamilton-Forrester said.

Another tip for parents and caregivers, Hamilton-Forrester said, is to put something important in the back seat that forces the driver to check the rear of the car before locking up and walking away — a purse, a cellphone, a briefcase; anything to ensure the driver checks the back seat.

And in an emergency, call 911 if anyone sees an unattended child in a closed vehicle.

Outside the Belk department store, Hamilton-Forrester and Ricks stand by a police cruiser. The thermometer has gotten so hot it stopped working. It was at least 133 degrees inside the car after only a couple of hours. Early on in the five-hour display, Hamilton-Forrester said the car went from 93 degrees to 101 degrees in about 15 minutes.

“We’re not sure what causes it to happen,” Hamilton-Forrester said. “We just don’t want it to happen.”

Heatstroke, she said, “is an awful, awful prolonged way to die” and it’s “100 percent preventable.”

Hamilton-Forrester wanted to largely stay away from a discussion centered around whether or not charges should be filed against a parent in cases where their child dies. As a parent, however, she can only imagine the pain and suffering a loss can bring.

Going to jail wouldn’t ease a parent’s suffering, “but would it deter others from doing it? Sure it would.”

HSPD 2014 rubik infograph

 

 

 

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Public safety

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