Kielah Tocheniuk and a co-worker were packing up items from the booth they manned at the Abbotsford Airshow on Sunday when some movement caught their eye in the car next to them.
A girl was in the backseat, and she appeared to be struggling. The vehicle was not running and a window was open only about two inches in the 27 degree afternoon heat.
Tocheniuk moved closer and noticed that the girl was sweating profusely. Tocheniuk began talking to her, and it soon became apparent that the girl was developmentally delayed and couldn’t speak.
She was buckled in to her seatbelt, the doors were locked, and she didn’t know how to get out. She was trying to squeeze her hand through the crack in the window to indicate that she wanted out.
Tocheniuk was distraught. She and her co-worker had been loading the vehicle for 30 minutes and nobody had come to check on the girl.
Tocheniuk considered breaking a window but a police officer was nearby, and she notified him and some on-site St. John Ambulance paramedics of the situation.
The officer tried to communicate with the girl and, as he was radioing for permission to break a window, her parents returned to the vehicle and unlocked it. By this time, another 15 minutes had passed from when Tocheniuk first noticed the girl.
The parents said they had left their 15-year-old daughter in the car because she is sensitive to the noises from the airshow.
The frustrated officer explained the severity of the situation to them, and the St. John Ambulance volunteers determined that the teen was dehydrated and suffering from heat exhaustion.
Tocheniuk then left the scene, but speaking to The News two days later, she said she is still angry about what she observed.
“It was really upsetting … I definitely had a few tears,” she said, adding that she has a brother with special needs who is also non-verbal and she can’t imagine leaving him in a vehicle, especially on a hot day.
Abbotsford Police Sgt. Judy Bird confirmed that police investigated the situation and the matter has been turned over to the Ministry of Child and Family Development for further assessment.
The ministry does not provide information on specific cases and their outcomes.