Assistant Fire Chief, Bystander Likely Save Child's Life; Mom Taken Into Custody

LYNDHURST, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A 17-month-old baby, who was just minutes from death, is alive thanks to a stranger who pulled him from the intense heat of a locked car.

The hot day nearly killed the little boy, who was left alone for 30 minutes in a shopping plaza.

Karen Wagner was walking in a plaza in Lyndhurst on Saturday when someone told her about a baby boy strapped in a car seat, with the windows up, all by himself. At that moment, an assistant fire chief happened to pass by and opened the car doors.

“It was like opening the oven on a turkey. The heat just hit you,” Wagner told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey on Tuesday.

The baby, who appeared “lifeless” according to Wagner, was pulled out of the car and was “just drenched with sweat.”

“He was dying in that fire chief’s arms and I said ‘The baby can’t drink. What do we do?’ He said ‘Pour water over his head,’ so I was pouring and I was rubbing his head, saying ‘Please baby open your eyes,'” Wagner said.

Medics soon arrived and rushed the baby to the hospital. The mother, Tatiana Deleao, 31, of Kearny, came out from shopping and was taken into custody.

“She said she forgot the child was with her. She forgot the baby was in the back seat,”  Lyndhurst Police Department Capt. John Valente said.

Sergio Deleao, the child’s father, admitted he was upset, but defended his wife, calling her a good mom.

“She forget…think it’s stress,” he said.

Those who know Tatiana Deleao were stunned.

“She forgot a kid in a car? Oh my God,” reacted one neighbor.

Meanwhile, Wagner said she is grateful she was in a position to help.

“I did what I did. It’s a mom. I’m a mom. That’s it,” Wagner said.

Tatiana Deleao’s husband said she’s going to get checked out by a doctor to make sure she’s psychologically okay and added his son is just fine.

The mother is facing charges of child endangerment. The Department of Youth and Family Services is also investigating.

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