CORSICANA — Tragedy struck close to home Friday when a 7-month-old girl died after being left in a parked car for five hours at a Corsicana elementary school.

It was about 1:20 p.m. when teacher’s aide Consuela Sanchez realized she had left her baby in the car.

Billy Snow of Ennis is principal of Bowie Elementary in Corsicana. He had to gather his composure as he recalled the terrible news of how the Sanchez baby died.

“Whenever you hear something like this on the news, you think, ‘How terrible it is that anybody could do that.’ But when it happened to someone you know is a good mother, someone who loves her babies and dotes on her babies and brings them to school to play, all we can do is love her and not judge her right now,” he said.

“She’s going to suffer with this the rest of her life. The Bowie family is grieving with the Sanchez family right now, and we ask for your prayers at this time,” Snow said.

Mica’s story

In Maypearl, there’s a hole in Michele Terry’s heart that will never be filled.

Her daughter Mica died four years ago after being accidentally left in a vehicle.

Terry recounted the events of June 23, 2005.

Typically, it was her job to drop the children off at daycare, but her husband had been laid off weeks before and he was helping with transfers. 

After dropping the 3-year-old off at her daycare, he got a phone call about a prospective job. The road to the other daycare was torn up and he got distracted from his task of transporting the sleeping infant in the back seat.

“There were a lot of deterrents, there were a lot of distractions, there were changes in routine,” Michele Terry said.

“He remembered her about four hours later, coming back from [the store],” she said. “It was a horrible 15-minute ride (back to the vehicle where the baby had been left). She was gone – it was pretty hot that day.”

Terry had words of comfort for the Sanchez family.

“My advice is to just hold on to her faith – hopefully she has that – and to surround herself with family and friends who know what type of mother she is,” she said.

“I can tell you right now there’s nothing anyone can say that would make her feel better. She’s missing a piece of her for the rest of her life. And at your own hand? There’s no way to comfort that,” Terry said.

“The people that know and love you are going to support you and defend you. My husband, to this day people will tell you, he is the best dad. He’s always been a huge contributor to their life and upbringing. It makes no sense.

“They are in our prayers – my heart almost breaks all over again to hear about this,” she said.  

Every October, the Terrys host a country music event in Maypearl in Mica’s memory, to raise funds for Kids and Cars.

Four years after the tragic loss of her youngest, Michele Terry is a woman on a mission.

Front passenger airbags and their danger to children have prompted government regulation ordering parents to put child safety seats in the back seat. But out of sight, out of mind can become tragedy for parents distracted by modern multi-tasking.

“We’d like a child reminder system – this needs to be a safety feature in all family sedans. A safety feature that says I left my keys in the car, that’s nice – but the fact that there’s still someone in the back is more important than my keys,” she said.

‘It couldn’t

happen to me’

According to statistics kept by the Web site www.kidsandcars.org, the Sanchez baby is the 29th child who has died after being left in a hot car somewhere in America this year. Last year, 43 children died in hot cars, said Janette Fennell, founder and president of Kids and Cars.

The organization has become a powerful lobby for increased safety measures relating to kids and cars and maintains a national database on injuries and deaths that occur to children as a result of nontraffic, noncrash incidents.

The list of individuals who have accidentally left their children in a car to die includes college professors, counselors, even a rocket scientist, she said.

“Because your kids are so important, you don’t think you could ever do it. The worst mistake you can make is to think it can’t happen to you,” she said.

“We work with many parents who have gone through this. If we can talk to the family, we will put them in touch with the only people on earth who understand what they’re going through,” Fennell said.

In May she was asked to address the Commerce and Energy Committee on Capitol Hill in an effort to get increased seatbelt reminders in vehicles.

Fennell recommends that families keep a teddy bear in their child’s car seat. When they put the child in the car seat, transfer the teddy bear into the front passenger side as a reminder that there’s a baby on board.

Other measures that can help include putting some work essential, such as a brief case, identity badge or lunch, on the floorboard by the child’s car seat.

“Look before you lock,” she said. 

A final measure would be to have a policy with the childcare provider that if the baby doesn’t get delivered as expected, that the parent will call if there’s a reason – and to provide a list of numbers to call if the baby isn’t brought in.

“If you have all those things in place, the likelihood of a child being forgotten will be very, very slim,” Fennell said.

Contact J.Louise at jlouise.larson@wninews. com or 517-469-1451.