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Posted: August 26, 2014

Did a 911 dispatcher deny help to child locked in hot car?

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By Christine Slusser

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WFTS: "I was just sitting there watching him get hotter and turn redder."

A Tampa, Florida, mother called 911 after accidentally leaving her toddler inside the car along with the keys. He ended up locking her out. A dispatcher told her authorities couldn't help her. 

SHANA DEES VIA WFTS: "My infant son is locked in the car in the parking lot."

​DISPATCHER: "They won't be able to ... unless the child is in some kind of distress."

ABC: "You heard right. Despite temperatures nearing the triple digits, the dispatcher telling Shana police wouldn't come to free Jack."

Temperatures were rising, and 10-month-old Jack's mother, Shana Dees, was starting to panic. Because Dees' cellphone was also in the car, WFTS reports she had to use a stranger's to call 911, and that's when she was refused help. 

"Eight minutes went by before an off-duty TPD officer made a second call to 911."

"Baby locked in a car."

​"OK, where they at?"

Before police arrived, someone used a wrench to help the mother break the window and get her son out of the car. But the question here is — why didn't the first dispatcher send help? It seems the second dispatcher couldn't believe it, either, as ABC highlighted in part of the second 911 call.

OFF-DUTY POLICE OFFICER: "She says she called 911 and they said they're not going to come out if the baby's not in distress."

DISPATCHER: "No, that's not true. Not at all."

A spokesperson for the Police Department said the first dispatcher made a mistake.

And the likelihood of a child getting heat stroke in a locked car is nothing to be taken lightly. San Francisco State University says the total number of children who died in 2013 due to heat stroke was 44. 

Most of those cases involve children younger than 1 year old, just like Jack.

And cars in the sun get hot fast. The Weather Channel explains within 10 minutes, a car in 90-degree weather can feel like 109 degrees inside. After 20 minutes, it can feel as warm as 119 degrees. 

The Police Department says the first dispatcher who said they couldn't send help will likely face some sort of discipline.

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