A Kansas woman has become a national hero this week after her dramatic rescue of a toddler locked in a hot car has gone viral.
Sarah Oropeza, a mother of two, was working in the Famous Footwear store she manages in Merriam, Kansas when an employee ran in screaming for help. A child was locked inside a car on a day where temperatures reached 91 degrees (with a heat index of 101 degrees).
“The windows were totally rolled up, all the doors were locked. She was covered in sweat,” Oropeza told KCTV5 News.
Police were called but Oropeza was not about to wait for them to arrive. With the help of other concerned shoppers, she banged as hard as she could on the window with different objects — using everything from a screw driver to a tire iron. It was finally a truck hitch that allowed them to crack open the window.
The entire rescue only took three minutes, but to Oropeza it felt a lot longer.
“I was thinking when I was hitting the window, ‘What if she dies? What if I can’t get her out? What’s going to happen? What are we going to do?’ I just did what I thought was right, which was to hit the window until it broke,” a visibly emotional Oropeza explained with tears in her eyes.
Kristy Scales, the woman who took the video that has since gone viral, told ABC News that she “just froze,” — panicking as she watched the scene unfold.
“I was just scared,” Scales said, “and then the baby comes out and she is soaking in sweat, in boots, in this crazy hot weather.”
Scales described the scene afterwards as emotional: “We were all crying.”
As for who was responsible for the toddler being left in the car? She was in the care of her father’s cousin and his sister, who had left her in the car while they shopped at a nearby cell phone store.
According to Oropeza, the cousin showed no emotion at the time, though he later said in an interview that he thanked Oropeza for coming and that he felt like a “monster,” but that he “honestly felt like we would have remembered.”
Police issued a ticket to the caregivers when they came out of the phone store, and the Johnson County District Attorney’s office is now reviewing the case.