NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A family in New Jersey had a heart-stopping experience Wednesday when their vehicle was repossessed with their baby in the back seat.
The family lives in East Orange, and the vehicle was towed to a lot in Newark about three miles away.
A dead-end street full of tire and auto shops in Newark is not necessarily where you’d want to bring a 1-year-old baby, but one wound up there anyway — in the back of a just-repossessed vehicle.
One-year-old Hannah’s disappearance in the family car Wednesday morning activated alarms for police and for her panicked parents.
“This is definitely something that, as a parent, is one of your worst nightmares,” said mother Noel Saldana, of East Orange.
Saldana was on her way to work at an eye doctor’s office when her cell phone rang with heart-stopping news.
“My husband called me and said we had an emergency and that the car was taken and that my daughter was in the car and they didn’t know where she was or where the car was taken,” she told CBS2’s Dave Carlin. “He thought it was stolen, that someone was kidnapping my child … I’m like, wait a minute, hold up, what? What happened?”
Unbeknownst to them, their vehicle, a gray SUV, was in a lot one city away in Newark.
A tow truck driver took the car on orders to repossess it for lack of payments, and the family admits the car was parked with the engine turned off and the baby girl inside in a car seat.
It’s unclear exactly how long the girl was left unattended by her father, but Saldana says it happened while her husband ran back to their apartment on Steuben Street because he had forgotten the baby’s bottle.
At this time, he is not charged with a crime.
“We know now that that is not the correct thing to do as parents,” Saldana said. “It happened, unfortunately. I’m not excusing it.”
Investigators say a towing company employee contacted police, and the child was taken to Newark’s University Hospital, where she was reunited with her mom.
Saldana calls all this the scariest two hours of her life.
“I’m just glad that they found her and that she was OK,” she said.
She says while on maternity after giving birth to Hannah, she fell behind in her car payments. She doesn’t blame the tow truck driver.
“I was in a financial situation that kind of led to this, them repoing the car, but I thought about that, too. I thought, did he look in the backseat?” Saldana said. “I would say it would be in their best interest to check, going forward, because this happened.”
Whether or not this results down the line in a summons or ticket for anyone, investigators say never leave a kid in a car unattended.