A mum has shared the harrowing story of the moment her sick little boy became trapped in her car after its lockout protection system failed.
In a Facebook post, Chloe Stewart of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, described the moment police were forced to smash the window of her secondhand 2017 Nissan Pathfinder to free eight-month-old Joseph.
“It was the most stressful time of my life,” Ms Stewart tells Essential Baby, adding that while Joseph is back to his “vibrant and gorgeous self” she wants to share her story to raise awareness of the potential dangers and prevent further tragedy.
On 14 January, Ms Stewart took her twins to see their GP after Joseph ran a fever.
“On returning to our car (parked in an uncovered car park in the sun), I did as I always do with the twins and placed my purse containing the vehicle’s smart key on the front seat and closed the door. I then opened the rear drivers-side door and secured Joseph into his capsule and closed that door,” she writes on Facebook. But, as she walked around to the other side to put her daughter in, the car locked itself with Joseph “trapped inside.”
“As you can imagine I panicked,” she says. After frantically calling RACQ and told they couldn’t confirm how long it would take to get to the family, Ms Stewart adds that she reportedly contacted her local Nissan dealer. “[They] recommended calling emergency services as there was nothing they could do.”
Ms Stewart contacted the police while her wife, Nic, tried to break the window with a hammer obtained from a passing tradie. “It failed to break the window, or successfully pry open the window or door,” she says.
In tears and feeling helpless, Ms Stewart watched as her little boy became more and more distressed. Fifteen minutes later, police arrived, smashing the window “with a sledgehammer of sort,” to free her son.
“I held Joseph against my chest to comfort him whilst one of the policemen poured water onto his head in an attempt to cool him down,” she says. “We feel incredibly lucky that he was otherwise unharmed by the ordeal. My initial reaction was one of guilt so I was greatly relieved that no harm had fallen upon my hands.”
After reportedly spending eight days in contact with Nissan and over 30 alleged calls placed in dispute with customer care, Ms Stewart says Nissan “has finally admitted the locking mechanism in Joey’s door needs to be replaced due to it failing.”
But while the company will replace the faulty lock under the warranty, Ms Stewart says they are refusing to cover the approximately $5600 worth of repairs required due to having to free Joseph from the car.
Ms Stewart says the company have also refused to provide the family with a loan car while they assess the damage. Fortunately, a local car hire saw her post and has provided a car at no cost. “The community support has been overwhelming,” she notes.
But the mother-of-two admits they’re the “lucky ones. “
“Joseph is still with us and unharmed. I fear that if the day had been slightly hotter, we didn’t have onlookers who offered assistance, or perhaps the police didn’t get there in time – this would have been a very different post.”
“I will never trust this system in our car again,” she says. And she has a message for other families too.
“Even if your car has a safety feature that prevents the keys from being locked inside, don’t trust it.”
A spokesperson from Nissan Australia told Essential Baby that while they cannot go into detailed specifics, they understand Ms Stewart purchased the vehicle secondhand from outside of Nissan’s dealer network.
“Therefore we can’t comment on what was told to the customer by the third party. We have agreed to repair the locking mechanism and are working closely with the customer to determine what has happened and obtain necessary information.”
According to Nissan, this includes possible previous smash repair and “the exact scenario of when the vehicle locked.”
“Nonetheless, Nissan has agreed to repair locking mechanism; and we are in regular contact with Ms Stewart and her family to resolve this matter as soon as possible.”