With all the deaths of small children nationwide this summer resulting from leaving them enclosed inside a vehicle, morbidly referred to as "hot car deaths," a North Carolina father of three decided to videotape himself sitting in a baking vehicle in the middle of a sunny day to show the dangers of leaving a helpless child in the same predicament. The 90-second video Terry Bartley posted to YouTube reveals the very real danger to adults locked inside a virtual sealed box that heats up rather quickly, and he was left to ask, "Do you really love your kids? That’s what you should ask yourself.”
Terry Bartley spoke with the New York Daily News in an interview posted July 14 after his alarmingly expository video went viral. He said he could barely last 20 minutes -- and he's a Georgia native, used to hot days.
In the video, which was posted two days after little Cooper Harris roasted to death in his father’s SUV in a Home Deport parking lot in Georgia, Bartley, who is 33, begins to sweat profusely after only a few minutes inside the un-air-conditioned vehicle.
“As you can see, I’m sweating like I can barely breathe out here and my system is stronger than these little kids’ systems,” Bartley said in the video clip, which has been viewed by more than 1.6 million people on YouTube. “This is sad, man.”
But Bartley started a trend, encouraging others to videotape themselves inside their oven-like cars and post the results to YouTube. Before long, dozens of videos popped up on YouTube showing the effects of trapped heat inside a car on an adult human being. All of them provide a cautionary tale as to what can potentially happen to a small child whose bodily resources are not as extensive.
And there is something else that almost all babies and toddlers, almost all of which are strapped into car seats and unable to release themselves, will not be able to do -- escape the heating car to fresh air. An adult can simply open the door and exit whenever they wish.
For example: Terry Bartley told the Daily News that, even the temperature outside his car was around 90 degrees the day he took the video (June 20), he was elated to get out into it. “It was hot outside, and as soon as I stepped into the hot air, even though it was hot, I loved it,” he said. "It was almost like someone was in the car choking me and I couldn’t breathe.”
For Bartley, it comes down to: "We go through this every year,” he says in the video. “There always (is) some fool that wants to leave their kid the backseat of the car and forget all about them. Do you really love your kids? That’s what you should ask yourself.”
Bartley's story is just the latest in a series of stories calling attention to the dangerous and irresponsible act of leaving children unattended in locked, unventilated, and/or un-air-conditioned vehicles. Most of the stories, though, are tragic tales of death.
Ross Harris, 33, claimed to have "forgotten" his son earlier this year, leaving the 22-month-old child to literally bake to death in the hot Atlanta sun for eight hours while he worked at his job at Home Deport. He told authorities that he thought he had dropped of his son, Cooper, at his day care. But with some odd aspects in the case, such as Harris' alleged googling on his computer how long it takes for a child to die in a sun-heated vehicle, he was arrested and charged with murder.
According to the statistics gathered by San Francisco State University, there have been 17 children, ranging in age from 2 years to 5 years, left to die hot car deaths across the nation. There were 44 in 2013. In most of those cases (51 percent), the caregiver said that they had "forgotten" the child was in the vehicle.
Thus far, North Carolina, where Bartley now lives, there have been no hot car deaths reported for 2014. There were two in 2013. The statistics are nearly reversed for the lower Carolina. There have been three hot car deaths in South Carolina so far in 2014, whereas there are none in in all of 2013. And in Bartley's native Georgia? There have been two so far in 2014. (Georgia also recorded no hot car deaths in 2013.)