A Florida grandfather was arrested after an employee at a Hertz car rental lot in the Daytona Beach International Airport discovered a toddler who was left in the back seat of a returned vehicle for about 45 minutes Monday evening, according to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.
“The child was scared and hot, but thankfully in good health when checked by paramedics,” said the Tuesday statement.
Deputies assigned to the airport responded to the rental lot at about 6 p.m. Monday “after a Hertz employee reported the toddler was found in a locked vehicle in the car return lot,” authorities said. “Deputies arrived to find the employee carrying the child, whose face was warm and streaked with dried tears, but was breathing normally,” the sheriff’s office said.
The vehicle had been returned at 5:13 p.m. Monday, but deputies and airport staff were unable to make contact with the driver after finding the toddler, authorities said.
“Then a call came in from the child’s mother, who had just learned her father had left her daughter in the rental car – not at his home, as he’d told her. The mother was on her way to the airport immediately to be reunited with her child, who is just under the age of 2,” authorities said.
The child was returned to her mother and the Department of Children and Families was notified.
David Towner, 62, of Port Orange, had been babysitting his granddaughter and left her in the rental car, detectives said, citing interviews and airport security footage.
“Towner was remorseful and cooperative with deputies,” the sheriff’s office said.
He is charged with one count of child neglect and is being held in the Volusia County jail on $2,500 bond, jail records show. It is unclear whether he has retained an attorney. CNN has reached out to the Volusia County Public Defender.
Sheriff Mike Chitwood will issue “citizens awards to the Hertz employees involved in the incident,” said the department.
The temperature in the parking lot was about 80 degrees at the time, authorities said. In general, children are more vulnerable to heatstroke, and temperatures can rise rapidly inside a car on a warm day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Twenty-nine children have died of vehicular heatstroke so far this year, and 23 died last year, according to No Heat Stroke, a website that tracks hot car deaths. About half of hot car deaths occur when a child is forgotten by a caregiver, No Heat Stroke has found.
The infrastructure bill President Joe Biden signed into law last year included a provision that will require new cars to have an alert system to remind people not to leave their child or pet in the back seat.