Citizens, Greenville PD officer awarded for saving toddler from hot car

A car was used in a demonstration on Tuesday to cook smores and show how quickly cars can heat up in the sun. (Ashley Boles/NewsChannel 12)

GREENVILLE, Pitt County - Bystanders and a Greenville Police officer were honored on Tuesday for their role in saving a toddler who was left in a hot car last month while his mother was inside shopping.

GPD Ofc. Elliott Gruhn, citizen Timothy Heinle and others were honored by GPD chief Mark Holtzman and North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey in a ceremony Tuesday. Heinle said he reacted without much thought on May 19.

"He was in terrible shape to be honest, clearly distressed, clearly in pain," Heinle said. "I tried to reach in, the car was locked, I tried to reach in the cracked window - it's black leather interior (and the) car was off, and it was so hot (and) my hand shot back out."

Gruhn arrived, getting the child out of the car that had reached 116 degrees in a short amount of time and getting him into a freezer at a nearby Zoe's Kitchen to help begin cooling the boy's core temperature down.

GPD and Causey used the event as a reminder of how quickly cars can heat up, particularly in the summer. The touted the Safekids Initiative and its "Smore Dangerous Than You Think" campaign by cooking smores on the dashboard of a parked car in less than an hour's time - on a relatively cool summer day. So far this year there have been 16 deaths related to hot cars in the US. In this case, the boy's mother, 21-year-old Ashley Garris, was shopping inside an Ulta Beauty store when she left her son in the car.

The child recovered from the incident, but Garris was arrested and charged with misdemeanor child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a child.

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