LAKE CITY, Fla. – OnStar might have been the difference between life and death for a 1-year-old Columbia County child found inside a hot vehicle while his mother was passed out.
Deputies said they were alerted to the situation Sunday afternoon, when The Weather Authority said temperatures had reached the upper 90s, by OnStar after the service overheard a child making noises inside the Lake City woman's pickup truck, which was not running at the time and had one window slightly cracked.
“It’s crucial that we never leave a child in a car, because with hot cars, it doesn’t take very long to heat up beyond 110 degrees and that will be the death of a child," said Sgt. Murray Smith, with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.
By the time they got there, deputies found 43-year-old Kristina Bowermaster sweaty and unconscious in the passenger seat. Her 1-year-old son, who was wearing a dirty diaper, was in the driver's seat.
Paramedics were called to the scene after Bowermaster said she felt dizzy, according to her arrest report. Despite her comments, deputies said she refused medical attention for herself and her child.
“They had been in there for at least an hour that we know of," Murray said. "They are fortunate that both of them are not dead.”
Although the location of the incident was redacted, the report noted that when a Department of Children and Families agent was called, another child who had been playing video games in his bedroom told the agency he had no idea his mother was outside in the truck.
Meanwhile, Bowermaster told investigators the last thing she remembered was leaving Winn-Dixie about 3 p.m. She did not recall anything else until she was awoken by a Columbia County deputy.
She told investigators her boyfriend had been driving, but he was nowhere to be found. According to the arrest report, surveillance footage from the grocery store earlier in the afternoon showed Bowermaster enter the store alone and then getting into the passenger side of the truck after exiting the store. Deputies said he could also face charges in the case.
“Anytime there is another person involved, we can absolutely have additional charges. We’ll do our case, send it to the state attorney and they will determine what charges are applicable," Smith said.
While searching the family's home, deputies noted that they found drug paraphernalia related to meth and crack cocaine in her bedroom, according to the report.
Bowermaster was charged with child neglect. She was ordered held without bond. Her children were taken into DCF custody until a family member could pick them up.
Bowermaster is also a suspect in a March 18 DUI case. According to that report, she had one of her children in the car when she was found asleep behind the wheel. Drugs were found in the vehicle.
DCF is investigating the two separate cases involving Bowermaster.