Protecting rescuers of kids in hot cars

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PA enacts Good Samaritan Law

KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – A new law is in effect this week in Pennsylvania that may help save some young lives. It’s a measure that provides legal protection for individuals who come to the aid of a child trapped in a hot car. Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller explains what you can and cannot do under the new law.

It’s a statistic that boggles the mind. 52 children nationwide died in hot cars in 2018. “They can’t help themselves and they’re just there and I mean you think that it’s like one second and you’re safe but it’s really not in the temperatures like this,” said Kathy Colella who owns Baby Vogue Boutique at United Penn Plaza.

Ms. Colella has never encountered a child trapped in a hot car but if she did she says she’d break into the car to rescue the child. “I would do that in a heartbeat.” Until this week, good samaritans in Pennsylvania had no legal immunity from doing that. Now, they do.

“It’s a common-sense law,” said Kingston Police Detective Ed Palka. He is pleased to see the new law which Governor Wolf signed in May finally take effect. Under it, the civilian rescuer is not held liable for damage to the vehicle or its contents. “Now, it gives you an opportunity to know that you’re trying to do the right thing if you come to that and that’s an extreme circumstance,” said Det. Palka.

There is one caveat to the new law. It requires the good samaritan to make a reasonable attempt to contact the vehicle owner before attempting forced entry. It also requires the rescuer to use no more force than necessary to enter the vehicle. When it comes to kids trapped in hot cars, minutes if not seconds count. Det. Palka said, “If you go and see a child that’s in a car and the child appears to be overcome you have to take action immediately.”

Pat Yeosock of Plains Township weighed-in on the new law while shopping at United Penn Plaza. As a registered nurse, she believes tending to a child in such a vulnerable situation as a hot car should always take precedence. “That would be my main concern to get the child out as fast as possible, call 911 without repercussions,” she said. Ms. Colella added, “I would think if you’re saving someone’s life or a child’s life I don’t even think that should be a concern.” It’s much less a concern now thanks to Pennsylvania’s new good samaritan law.

The Good Samaritan law is similar to one passed in Pennsylvania in 2018. It allows police to enter vehicles to rescue pets from hot cars — but does not apply to civilian good samaritans.

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