GARDEN CITY, Kan. -

The Finney County Attorney's office has filed charges against two people for leaving a baby in a car alone.

Child endangerment charges were filed against Geronimo Gonzales, 24, and Deidre Lopez, 21, on Tuesday.

Garden City police say the two left their five-month-old baby in the car at a local Dillon's store. Employees had to remove the child from the car.

The child was taken to the hospital and determined to be okay.

On Monday, Garden City Police arrested Margaritha Wiebe-Peters, 21, after officers were called to a similar incident at a Walgreen's store. Formal child endangerment charges have also been filed.

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Garden City Police reported two separate incidents involving young children left in cars within two days.

According to police, the first case happened at 11:48 a.m. Sunday at Dillons West on 1211 W Jones. Police said officers arrived to find that Dillons employees had removed a 5 1/2 month old boy from a vehicle in the parking lot. Employees told police they believed the child was in the car for approximately 15 minutes with the windows rolled down. Employees said they heard the child crying. Police said the temperature outside was approximately 90 degrees.

Police said they found family members of the child inside the store and the initial investigation shows the family forgot the child in the vehicle. Police said there was some confusion because the family's other children were left at a grandmother's house. Finney County EMS and St. Catherine's Hospital medical staff checked the child and did not find any injuries or illness. Police said the Department of Children and Family received a report and the child went back to the parents. Police will not release names at this time as the incident is still under investigation.

Captain Randy Ralson said there has not yet been an arrest in this case because more investigating is necessary. He said officers are asking more questions and will hopefully have more investigation done by Tuesday morning.

Sheila Lowry, Dillons spokeswoman, said the company is thankful for the employees' quick action.

"They got the child out and alerted authorities," Lowry said.

On Monday, Garden City Police said around 11:25 a.m., officers responded to Walgreens on 1308 E Kansas after a report of a one-year-old child left unattended in a vehicle. Officers said the child was locked inside and the car wasn't running. Officers said as they were trying to get the child out, the parent came out of the store and approached officers.

Police said the investigation revealed the parent left the child in the vehicle with the auto start running and the air conditioner on. The parent said she was unaware the auto start only ran for 10 minutes before shutting off. Police said the investigation showed the child was in the car for approximately 15 minutes before officers showed up. Police said the temperature outside was 88 degrees.

Garden City Police arrested 26-year-old Margaritha Weibe-Peters of Sublette and police lodged her in Finney County Jail for allegations of Endangering a Child. Police said the one-year-old went into protective custody and later released to family.

Safe Kids Wichita Area Coordinator Ronda Lusk said so far in 2014, Kansas hasn't had any deaths from kids left in hot cars. She said the United States has had 17 deaths so far in 2014, with four of those still pending investigation. She said it only takes minutes for cars to heat up to the point of harming children. She said kids cannot regulate their body temperature as well as adults and their bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults. She said in 10 minutes, a car can increase up to 19 degrees in temperature.

Lusk recommends parents take steps to ensure leaving a child in a hot car doesn't happen to them. She said they can leave something in the backseat that's necessary for their destination, like a purse. She said parents can also set reminders in their phones and teach children that vehicles are not places to play. She said often times, when people break their normal routine is when they are more likely to forget a child.

Lusk said one thing Safe Kids promotes heavily is acting quickly. She said if you see a child in a car alone, you should call 911 immediately and not wait for a parent or guardian to return to the car.

She said even if the windows are down, the car will still heat up quickly and kids are not safe inside.

Safety Tips from KidsAndCars.org
 

  • Never leave children alone in or around cars; not even for a minute.
  • Get in the habit of always opening the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to make sure no child has been left behind. This will soon become a habit. We call this the "Look Before You Lock" campaign.
  • Put something you'll need like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or brief case, etc., on the floor board in the back seat.
  • Keep a large stuffed animal in the child's car seat. When the child is placed in the car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It's a visual reminder that anytime the stuffed animal is up front you know the child is in the back seat in a child safety seat.
  • Make arrangements with your childcare provider that if your child does not show up as scheduled, they will contact you immediately to ensure your child is safe.  In turn, you will agree to always call the childcare provider if your child will not be there on a particular day as scheduled.
  • Ensure children do not have access to an unattended vehicle.  Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in driveways or garages. Ask home visitors, child care providers and neighbors to do the same.
  • Keep car keys and remote openers out of reach of children.
  • If a child goes missing, immediately check the inside and trunks of all vehicles in the area very carefully, even if they are locked, a child may lock the doors after entering a vehicle on their own.
  • Make sure all child passengers have left the vehicle after it is parked.
  • If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. If they are hot or seem sick, get them out as quickly as possible. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
  • Be especially careful about keeping children safe in and around cars during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays.