- Hot Cars
10/01/2006 – 07/08/2008
Chase Dmitry Harrison
Carol and I adopted Chase from an orphanage in Russia in March 2008. We stayed home for three months in order for Chase to start to bond with us as parents and to help with all of his medical needs. It was a very busy time, but we were overjoyed with happiness.
We had only started bringing Chase to daycare the last week of June and Carol brought him in for a half day the 1st day to get him acclimated and see how he did. The next day I brought him in and I picked him up, which we had planned would be our normal routine. At the end of day three, Carol received a call that Chase was running a fever. So she brought him to the doctor the next morning as it looked like he had pink eye, which he did. Being from an orphanage and new here it was expected for him to pick up some germs etc. that he was not used to. We kept him out of school the next day and had planned on making the trip to Ohio to see his grandparents and extended family the July 4th weekend.
I had broken my ankle the week prior and was in a cast and pretty uncomfortable, but we were excited to show off our new son, so we decided to make the trip. After a great weekend of bringing Chase around and to the Columbus Zoo, which he loved, we took to the road again for the 8 hour drive back to Virginia. My ankle had swelled up in my cast from all the walking at the zoo, so I was pretty sore.
We made it back to Virginia Sunday night weary eyed and had to get up early for work the next morning. Very tired, we got Chase ready and headed out the door together, as we happened to be working in the same building that day so we both dropped Chase at daycare together and picked him up together.
On Tuesday, July 8th, only a week into his new daycare routine, it was decided that I would be dropping Chase off and Carol would be picking him up. I had a lot of problems going on at work at one of my very important job sites and was trying to work them out very early in the morning before leaving for work. Chase’s car seat was directly behind the driver as the seat belt on the passenger side was not working and we were planning on getting that fixed. Since Chase was very behind physically, emotionally and with his speech, he did not make a lot of sounds in the car, as he would sleep most of the time. The daycare was on my route to work it was just off the highway a couple of exits earlier. That morning, stressed from my work issues, I went into autopilot at some point during my commute and drove straight to my office, parked the car, walked in and went about my day. I even talked about Chase and bragged about him that day to friends on the phone “knowing” he was at daycare.
At some point late in the afternoon, someone asked me, ‘Do you have a doll in your car ‘? At first I didn’t understand and then my mind started racing, I started to feel sick, ran out to the car, opened the door and there was my beautiful son, Chase, lifeless still in the car seat. I pulled him out of the car, screaming hysterically and carried him to the office, where my boss started CPR on him and 911 was called. The paramedics worked on him in the office but to no avail, my son had died in the hot car.
The pain and anguish of that day and every day since is unexplainable and all consuming. My wife and I will be enduring it for the rest of our lives. Each and every day. We think about our beautiful, happy, sweet son who we brought into our lives from half way around the world and how much we loved him. All of our dreams for Chase and our family were taken away that day as well as any future dreams.
I was put on suicide watch in the hospital, then arrested and put on trial. We had press camped out at our house, police searching our house, investigators accusing us of the unthinkable. Carol remembers the investigator saying to her “who does this”? He asked if we had taken out insurance on our little son! We were so angry and hurt and devastated that he would think that. After the trial we also had to endure three other hearings from Child Protective Services. Lawyers had to be hired. We had to relive the horror again and again and again. When will the agony stop? Both Carol and I and our family have been crushed by these events.
We cannot stop replaying that day thinking about all of the ifs. What if Carol called the daycare in the morning to ask how he was doing? They would have told her he wasn’t there and she could have made the necessary calls immediately to my office and Chase would be out of the car in seconds. What if the daycare called us to ask why he wasn’t there today? What if there was technology in the car seat? What if the car had an alarm system to alert us that we had left Chase behind? There is technology already available.
Well, there is technology for all of these things, but no one has mandated their installation in vehicles. Most daycares do not call when a child is absent. No parent thinks they could ever possibly leave their child in a car or forget them. It has been documented again and again, even the best parents under minimal stress can go into “autopilot” and momentarily forget that they have a child in the car!
Gene Weingarten’s Pulitzer Prize winning, article Fatal Distraction explains how it is possible for good smart and loving parents to experience this tragedy.
On the night of July 6th, we carried Chase up to bed and thought to ourselves how complete we were as a family. The events of the next day would change everything.
In our son Chase’s honor, we have made it our mission to try and prevent this unspeakable tragedy from happening to ANY parents. Every time we hear of another child dying, we re-live that horrible day with them all over again and we ask WHY? Why does this keep happening when there is technology available to prevent it? Every loving, caring parent must realize that this disaster could happen to them. They need to be made aware of this phenomena and make sure that congress mandates a vehicle alarm system to save the lives of our children and eliminate the crushing pain this causes their parents.
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