A Columbus police officer who found a 2-year-old girl alone in a hot vehicle at an Aflac building on Aug. 21 may have prevented a serious heat-related injury or possibly death, the officer’s supervisors said.
For her efforts, Cpl. Virginia Duncan was named Officer of the Month for August 2018 at the Columbus Police Department.
Duncan was working a part-time job at 1 Aflac Parkway in Corporate Ridge when she noticed small hands through the window of a silver Hyundai Sonata which was parked away from other vehicles in the parking lot. A closer inspection revealed a small child left alone in the vehicle with its windows rolled up.
The officer used her hands to force down the window enough to stick her baton inside and activate the unlock button to open the door. Inside the vehicle, the officer found the child sweating heavily and her skin was hot. The temperature in Columbus was 89 degrees with a heat index of 99 degrees.
The security staff was able to locate the toddler’s mother who was charged with reckless conduct and third-degree cruelty to children. A company official said the woman wasn’t an Aflac employee but a staffer from an employment agency.
Capt. Debra Kennedy, who oversees the Special Operations Unit where Duncan works, recognized the officer’s efforts in the case.
“If it were not for Corporal Duncan’s actions, there is no doubt the small child could have died while inside the hot vehicle,” Kennedy said.
Sgt. Vincent Dragnett, Duncan’s immediate supervisor, said investigating a suspicious vehicle was key in locating the child. “Her investigative intuition prevented any serious heat related injuries and possible death of the child,” he said.
About 37 children under age 15 die each year from heatstroke after being left in a vehicle, according to the National Safety Council. So far, 44 children have died in a hot car death this year. Since 1998, nearly every state has experienced at least one death.
Duncan wasn’t available for comment on the rescue of the child and award.