Passersby Hailed As Heroes for Saving Baby in Hot Car in NJ

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53-year-old Steven Eckel of Jackson, NJ, and 30-year-old Sarah Mazzone of Howell are being hailed as heroes today after they rescued a four-month-old baby from the back of a Nissan Sentra in front of a Kohl’s store in the Howell Commons parking lot in Howell just before 1 p.m. yesterday.

Using a sledgehammer that Eckel – a retired police officer from the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office – happened to have in his car, the two smashed one of the vehicle’s front
eckelwindows to get out the child, who, authorities said, had been inadvertently left in the car for about 40 minutes, the Asbury Park Press reports.

Askanim are praising Eckel and Mazzone for saving the life of the baby, whose parents reside in a nearby township.

The mother of the baby was arrested and has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child.

At least 27 children have died so far this year after being left alone in hot cars.

Mazzone, who is a schoolteacher, first noticed the baby in the car with the door locked and the windows closed. The temperature was soaring close to 90 degrees outside. The baby was “beet red” and “sweating profusely. She was half covered in a blanket and in a panic,” Mazzone told News12 New Jersey.

Walking in the opposite direction was Eckel, whom she alerted.

“That’s when we both heard the baby screaming,” Eckel told Howell Patch’s Karen Wall.

Mazzone rushed into Kohl’s in search of help. Eckel called police. But realizing there might be no time to spare, he began asking people in the parking lot if they had a tire iron or some other tool to smash the car’s window and extract the child.

It was “well over 120 degrees,” inside the car he figured. “She was sweating, crying, eyes rolling back,” he told CBS2 New York.

That’s when he remembered he had a sledgehammer in his car that he had been using on a project. Running in his flip-flops, he retrieved it, smashed the front passenger window and took the baby out.

“Just think of what could have happened,” he told CBS2 New York. “I do believe in guardian angels, and I think I’m the one for this child,” Eckel said.

“I almost started to cry, I got really emotional at that point,” he told CBS2.

They took the baby inside the air-conditioned Kohl’s and waited for authorities to arrive.

“In my opinion they saved the baby’s life,” Sgt. Christian Antunez, of the Howell Township Police Department, told News12 New Jersey. “Seconds could have made a difference between life and death.”

“You act like a dad,” Eckel said in a News12 interview of his reaction. “You act like a cop. Once a cop always a cop, you know what they say.”

“When I got home, I still had the (baby’s) onesie,” he told Howell Patch. “My wife asked what it was, and when she picked it up, it was still soaking wet. That’s when it really hit me.”

{Andy / The Washington Post contributed to this report}


  1. I read this story earlier. What actually outraged me More was the fact the first response was to “arrest” the person. It has become ALL to common that “government” and its agents have the first response to criminalize and subsequently jail individuals for what is nothing more than a mistake or possibly poor judgment. Does anyone really realize and understand the scope of where this has gone. Recently there was a video of a young teen who had been caught “jaywalking” and was arrested. I firmly, emphatically believe the officer in Dallas, I think that’s who it was, made the following remark, that society has criminalized way too much and require officers to handle societal ills that they aren’t equipped to deal with. If there is a case where a child is “in danger” it would be a different matter. But typically the charge is “endangered”. THIS is a relative term and open to far to much interpretation. There was another statement I had heard a woman say which I wholeheartedly agreed with. There is too much “over-policing” in certain neighborhoods. Is there any societal benefit for a 5 year old child to be arrested and carted off to jail. I believe there is merit to the person who wrote about how we have turned this country into a virtual police state. In the past couple of years I’ve paid more attention to how much involvement law enforcement has in people’s every day lives and there is no justification in many of those cases.

    • If that baby had been in that car for even a few more minutes, it would have died. You don’t know if this mother admitted she left the baby unattended on purpose. Even so, the charge can be withdraw later if the parties enter an agreement or the prosecutor decides there is insufficient evidence to convict.

  2. I really don’t see why they needed to arrest her and cuff her. Did they think she did it on purpose ?

    On the other hand, 40 minutes does seem like a lot.

  3. sharbano
    let’s put this in halachic terms. If C’V the baby had died, the mother would not be patur (it’s not an accident), it would be considered poshea, probably karuv l’meyzid which is a severe form of negligence that even golus would not be mechaper for.
    In other words, these heros saved her from a charge of negligent manslaughter. she should count herself lucky that she has her child and she won’t do time, just counseling and court oversight.

  4. Sharbano,
    You’re an imbecile. Enough is enough. Trust me that this mother did NOT forget to take her purse and wallet into the store with her. Yet she forgot her tiny little baby. It’s beyond belief.
    She should be arrested and the key thrown away.
    The child should immediately be placed with a family who will properly take care of it.
    There is no excuse, not even a tiny measure of reasoning, to give any empathy to someone who does this.
    “Mistakes,” “inadvertent,” can be used if you forgot your glasses in Shul, or “forgot” to brush your teeth.
    They CANNOT and SHOULD NEVER be used when forgetting your child in a car. The mother should be arrested for attempted murder.

  5. Why is it that most ppl are so quick to bash and criticize?! Yes forgetting a child or any living being in a car that is off and windows up at any point in the year is horrible. But why can’t we be nice about it and see if there is anything we can do about it?! You know about a month ago a child was nebach niftar in Eretz Yisroel and I saw one person was smart and gave an eitza which I now do. He said I take my left shoe off and put it next to my child this way I will always remember. Rabosai I’m a regular guy not one that gives mussar but put yourself in this mothers shoe; you just went through a traumatic experience and now have a lot to worry about. Not only do you have to worry about the law but ignorant ppl who have nothing better to do but bash you!! How can we prevent this from happening again? I think the only way is to educate. I happen to know this mother really well. Her husband is a HUGE talmid chacham!! She is a hard working mother of knein a hara a big beautiful family. Shame on you to say she should be locked up and keys thrown away!! It’s almost Elul and we can all use zechusim maybe we can offer to help anyone we know going through a hard time such as this instead of insulting and bashing them.

  6. Why is it that when something like this happens ppl insult and bash others?! Yes it is a horrible thing to FORGET a child or any other living being in a car that is off and widows up at any point during the year, but why bash and insult any person or parent that this happens to? About a month or so ago a family in Eretz Yisroel nebach lost a child for the same reason, the usual insults and accusations were being thrown at these poor parents. But one comment stood out. It was a fellow giving an eitza not the usual accusing bashing and insulting comment. He said when I travel with my children I take my left shoe off and place it next to my child so I do not forget about him/her. Why can’t we all be this way? Understanding. Why not try to help the person or some words of encouragement? I’m a regular guy not one to give mussar but this really bothers me. Why not try to do something about this problem instead of hearing about? Why not fix the problem? Educate parents, teachers, guardians… On how to resolve it!! Nebach whenever something like this happens not only do the parents or ppl involved have to deal with the law and other things like that, they have to deal with bored ppl like you who say “they should lock her up and the key thrown away”. Put yourself in her shoes now!! Think about it!! Would you learn something from all this rhetoric?! Or from some normal person who tries to help you and give an eitza?! I happen to know this family really well. The father is a HUGE talmid chacham the mother is hard working and a very good and responsible one too. Knein a hara they have a big beautiful family. It’s almost Elul instead of insults and not nice things being said let’s try to help them or anyone we know going through hard times.

  7. I fully expected some of the hostile responses. For those, you have responded without even knowing any details. I had no knowledge of the person OR the situation but I’ve am NOT one who will automatically “assume” the worst in such an individual. It has been a typical response in so very many cases, “throw the person in jail”. I AM pleased to see those who had the courtesy to say let’s see what we can do to help. I can fully guarantee ALL those who want to be severe you too can be in the same situation. Given all the laws that have been enacted there is not a single person who cannot, at some point in time, be guilty of something that can land them also in jail. If those would have actually “read” the points I made you would see I am indicting society in general in the way it deals with people in general. Those who want to “justify” themselves in Torah should remember, a person is to be given a warning. I find myself disgusted that people use such a method for justification.

  8. If someone killed someone by swinging an axe and the head came off and killed someone else, the killer would have to go into exile and could not be freed until the cohain gadol died and if he went out before his time was up the relative of the killed person could kill the killer.

    Leaving a child in a hot car is very close to outrageous negligence and is almost intentional. It deserves the severest punishment and leniency is not reasonable in this case at all.

    • Leaving a child in a hot car is very close to outrageous negligence and is almost intentional.
      That is a common misconception by people who can’t even imagine forgetting a precious child in a car. If you read the stories of some people (including frum ones) who R”L lost their children because of this horrible tragedy, you will learn otherwise.
      Forgetting is not due to not caring; rather it’s because of how the brain works. Loving parents who would gladly give their own lives in an instant to undo their terrible mistake have also experienced this tragedy.
      Google “hot car deaths” and “story of parent who forgot child in car” for more on this.

      • People can have the sincerest regret and it means nothing after the fact. Your mercy is totally misplaced and will only lead to more carelessness by those who have no right to be careless with a precious life.

        • Your mercy is totally misplaced and will only lead to more carelessness by those who have no right to be careless with a precious life.
          You couldn’t be more wrong. If losing one’s child R”L (something worse than their own death to most parents) doesn’t stop these tragedies from occurring do you honestly believe “the severest punishment” will make any difference?
          Please at the very minimum do a Google search on the above terms.

  9. Whilst it probably was an unintentional oversight, it is NOT an excusable mistake..why take pity on the mother instead of
    on the real victim here- a tiny innocent baby? Maybe legal action is the kind of approach which will ensure that this doesn’t happen again…


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