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Bill would shield 'Good Samaritans' who rescue kids left in cars

HARRISBURG - Days after a heat wave blistered parts of the state, a Luzerne County legislator has introduced a bill that would bar individuals from being sued for breaking into a hot car to rescue a child inside.

HARRISBURG - Days after a heat wave blistered parts of the state, a Luzerne County legislator has introduced a bill that would bar individuals from being sued for breaking into a hot car to rescue a child inside.

"People wouldn't have to question, 'What if I get in trouble for smashing a windshield?" said Rep. Karen Boback (R., Lackawanna). "That should be the last thing on people's mind."

Boback, a new grandmother, said she was moved by news stories about children suffering in locked cars in the heat. Nearly two dozen U.S. children have died in such accidents this year, according to the nonprofit Kids and Cars. Sunday was National Child Vehicular Heatstroke Prevention and Awareness Day.

The Republican legislator said she was unaware of any lawsuits against the Good Samaritans her bill would ostensibly help, but said she hopes it will move people to act without fearing repercussions.

The bill, introduced this week, would bring Pennsylvania in line with 10 other states that give immunity to Good Samaritans, according to Kids and Cars.

Under Pennsylvania's current laws, it is illegal to leave a child under the age of 6 years old unattended in a car.

A car sitting with its windows closed on a mild 80-degree day can reach 100 degrees inside within 10 to 20 minutes. After an hour, the temperature can exceed 130 degrees, according to Jan Null, a consulting meteorologist at San Jose State University who tracks deaths of children in hot cars.

Late last month, a 4-year-old girl died in downtown Williamsport after she was left in a car for more than six hours. Temperatures that day reached 96 degrees, and preliminary testing showed the interior of the car in which Samaria Motkya was found reached 120 degrees, said Jerold Ross, chief deputy coroner for Lycoming County.

Null, the meteorologist, said many people would not consider the risk of being sued or charged for before breaking a window in order to save a child. Still, he said, a law like Boback's could help wash away any reluctance.

"If a law saves one life in Pennsylvania, it's a success," he said.

crmossbrook@gmail.com @CarleyMossbrook