A toddler was dramatically rescued from a hot car after being left alone for more than an hour in scorching temperatures.
The boy, thought to be around 18 months old, was freed after a passer-by heard him crying from inside the locked vehicle.
Fire crews finally released him by smashing a window and pulling him from the 4×4, which had been left in a car park in Saffron Walden, Essex, on Saturday.
A ticket stub on the dashboard of the Nissan X-Trail suggested he’d been abandoned inside for more than an hour – as outside temperatures topped 25’c.
Crowds gathered to watch the rescue operation after an announcement was made at a nearby family fun day, urging the boy’s parents to return to their car.
Witness Cheryl Thomas, 42, said: “It was unbelievable. We were all enjoying a day out and suddenly they announced this crying little boy had been left inside a hot car.
“We could see the car park from where we were and everyone looked over to see paramedics outside the car, frantically trying to get in.
“Everyone was looking round for a parent rushing over but no-one came. We couldn’t believe it when ten minutes later there was still no sign of anyone.
“It was such a hot day, we actually got sunburn while we were out there so that poor little boy must have been in such distress.
“It brings me to tears thinking about what he must have been going through.”
Firefighters swooped on the 17-plate vehicle and eventually freed the little boy shortly after 4.30pm after smashing the driver’s window.
He was crying and was visibly distressed as he was pulled from the car, which is when a woman – believed to be his mother – finally returned with another young boy.
The toddler was passed to her and they were ushered into the back of a waiting ambulance for the boy to be assessed by a St John’s Ambulance crew.
Police officers later spent more than half an hour speaking to the woman in the back of the emergency vehicle.
Mum-of-two Cheryl, an accounts manager, said: “The firefighters did an amazing job getting him out, they worked so quickly.
“Then this woman just appeared from nowhere. No-one realised she was the boy’s mum to begin with as she didn’t seem to show any emotion over what was happening.
“She had another little boy with her, who was older and holding her hand. We just couldn’t understand why you would take one child out with you and leave one in the car for so long.
“Who knows where she had been or what she was doing. She didn’t have any bags with her, just a big handbag, so whether she’d popped to a shop or not, I don’t know.
“To leave your child for a minute is too long though, let alone an hour.”
Taking to Facebook, Jodie Saxby said: “After half an hour I thought something must be wrong with that parent but no she came strolling from town way!
“Having a niece of that age it made my feel so sad for that baby!”
Jackie Waughman added: “It was a lovely day on the common then they announced over the mic this sad news.
“What was she thinking? You don’t leave a dog in the car, let alone a child.
“They had to smash her window, she was gone for ages.
“When she did come back she seemed more worried about her car.
“I pray she never does this again as I have a feeling it’s not the first time she’s done it.”
It’s understood the woman was later allowed to leave with the children in the car, as witnesses described seeing her drive away.
According to Child Safety Europe, car temperatures can rise 10 to 15 degrees celsius every 15 minutes and opening windows does not significantly slow down the rate.
Hypothermia can occur in minutes while most deaths happen within just two hours.
At just 22’C outside, in a car it can reach a deadly 47’C within an hour.
When the human body reaches temperatures above 40’C, the organs are at risk, but children are more vulnerable because their bodies heat up three to five times faster.
Saffron Walden Fire Station posted a picture of the smashed window on social media and said: “Well a first for us! We have been called to animals locked in cars while the owners go shopping but never a child.
“We cannot stress enough how dangerous it is to leave any person, child or animal locked in a car in this heat.
“The child was rescued by our crew who smashed a window to gain entry.
“The incident has now been handed over to Essex Police for further investigation.
“First aid was given by St John Ambulance crew.”
Essex Police confirmed that no arrests had been made but a referral had been made to social services.
A spokesman for the force said: “We were called by colleagues at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service to reports of a toddler locked in a car in Common Hill, Saffron Walden, just after 4.20pm on Saturday, 22 June.
“Officers attended as firefighters broke into the car and were joined shortly after by the child’s relatives.
“A referral has been made to social care.”