‘It was so fast’: Summerville kids playing with keys lock themselves in hot car

A Summerville mother shares her story after her two children locked themselves in the car in the blazing heat last week.
Published: Aug. 18, 2023 at 11:43 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2023 at 6:44 AM EDT
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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - A Summerville mother says her 5-year-old and 20-month-old sons locked themselves in the family’s car in the blazing heat last week.

Maggie Oaks picked up the boys from preschool last Friday when the youngest wanted to play with her keys.

“Then all of a sudden, I was going to grab the keys from them, and I heard ‘click,’” Oaks says.

The door locked behind Oaks, leaving her two sons stuck in the hot car.

“I’m screaming, ‘The kids are in the car,’” she adds.

She said it was a mother’s worst nightmare, and time slowed down.

“It happened within like, you know, half a second,” Oaks says. “It was so fast.”

Berkeley County Dispatch received the call at 4:58 p.m. and a deputy was on the scene at 5:10 p.m., according to a report from the dispatch center.

Her husband arrived at the preschool with a spare key to get the children out before the deputies arrived.

“I just kept saying, ‘Why does taking the police so long? What is taking the police so long?” Oaks says. “I was looking in the parking lot like, ‘Where are they?’”

Valerie Scott, a family physician with Roper St. Francis, says 26% of the time when children are locked inside of a car, it’s because they get ahold of car keys.

“You and I can take our clothing off, we can move around, we can get a drink of water, we can open the door, but if they are stuck in a car, and it’s hot in our car, these little babies just can’t get out,” Scott says.

“That’s insane to me. I had no idea that it happens that frequently, but I can see how it could because you’re not even thinking that in the moment,” Oaks says in response to the percentage.

Signs of heat exhaustion for children include them starting to become very thirsty, sweating profusely, distressed breathing or flushed cheeks.

“If you’re really worried about your child, even though they’re small, I would try to cool them and call for 911; because what are you going to do in the car if something happens? It’s just not very safe,” Scott adds.

To find out more about preventing a similar situation from happening to you, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a section on heatstroke in children on their website.