HOPEWELL, Va. (WRIC) — In the wake of the deaths of two young children left in hot cars, an area mom is sharing her own heartbreaking story.
“She was such a sweet child,” remembers Diane Smith about her first born child, Melissa. “She would be 25 if she were alive and you know the one thought that goes through my mind is wow, I wonder what she would be doing now.”
Melissa died on August 31, 1995.
Her father left the 2-year-old in his pick up with the windows cracked while he ran inside the house.
It was 95 degrees outside. In just ten minutes, the truck heated up to more 120 degrees inside.
“Making a serious mistake of thinking, ‘Oh, I can leave her there just for a few minutes,'” Diane explains about her husband’s actions. “He learned a lesson, but it was the hard way.”
Prosecutors charged Ron Smith with involuntary manslaughter. He was never convicted, but the Hopewell father was always haunted by what he did.
“Our lives were never quite the same again,” Diane says.
She forgave her husband. The couple went on to have three more children.
But Ron’s health declined after that. He passed away from dementia in January.
After hearing of four Richmond area children dying in hot cars this summer, Diane felt compelled to share her tragic story.
She wants to warn other parents, “Rather than point a finger and say, ‘Oh, how did that happen? How can you be so forgetful? Realize that this can happen to anybody from any walk of life and it can happen to you.”
She thinks it should be illegal to leave children alone in a car at any time and that parents might be more accountable if they get ticketed and charged a fine.
Beyond that, Diane urges moms and dads to be vigilant so they don’t suffer the same kind of loss she did.