Weekly Feature

2018-09-13 / Front Page

Officer rescues 3-year-old from hot car

The actions and insight of a Cheektowaga police officer last week may have saved the life of a 3-year-old girl.

At approximately 11 p.m. on Sept. 4, Officer Christopher Wierzbowski observed a vehicle that appeared to be unoccupied in the parking lot of a closed business at the intersection of Genesee Street and Harlem Road. The vehicle was parked but running, and its lights were on.

As he approached the vehicle, a young child jumped up on the seat and Wierzbowski allegedly observed Jade Nikel, 28, slumped over the center console with a hypodermic needle sticking out of her arm.

According to the Cheektowaga Police Department, the temperature on that evening was in the 80s. The vehicle was locked, all the windows were closed and the heat was on in the car. The young child was not able to unlock the doors.

Wierzbowski reportedly attempted to awaken the mother by pounding on the windows but was unable to do so, and as a result, he broke a window to release the child, who was “profusely sweating and beet red in color,” according to the Police Department.

“First of all, it’s him doing his job the right way,” said Assistant Chief Jim Speyer. “The fact that he observed this vehicle and realized it looked out of place, without him having the wherewithal to do that, this poor girl might have passed away as a result. There’s no doubt in my mind that he saved that little girl’s life.”

As officers were preparing to administer Narcan — a drug that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose — Nikel woke up. She was transported to Erie County Medical Center for evaluation, while her daughter was treated for dehydration.

Nikel was later arrested and charged with reckless endangerment, endangering the welfare of a child, criminal possession of a controlled substance and possession of a hypodermic instrument. She was arraigned and sent to the Erie County Holding Center.

Child Protective Services was notified, and the young girl was released to a family member.

While this might seem like an extreme circumstance, Speyer said members of the Cheektowaga Police Department are fairly versed in dealing with such scenarios as the use of opioids affects the community.

“This is a common thing where we have accidents where people overdose while they’re driving or where they even pass out in the car right outside of court,” he said. “We’re fortunate the vehicle wasn’t moving when she passed out.”

Speyer said officers are unsure of how long the pair may have been in the car or what prompted the mother to turn on the heat.

“When the officer broke the window he could feel the hot humid air pour out of the vehicle,” said Speyer.

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