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Locksmith ticketed while speeding to free child locked in car

Kacie Dingus Breeding • Jul 31, 2007 at 12:00 AM

It’s sizzling outside and you’ve just locked your child in the car. Who should you call? The answer is not a locksmith, local authorities agree, but a family in Mount Carmel apparently didn’t know that.

As it turns out, neither did the locksmith.

According to Sullivan County locksmith Mark Fields, no one was more surprised than his friend and fellow locksmith from Hawkins County, Randy Price,

when a Tennessee Highway Patrol officer appeared behind him after he’d notified Hawkins County Central Dispatch of his intentions to rescue a baby accidentally locked in a car in Mount Carmel.

Fields said Price thought the officer was either providing a police escort, or else dispatch would give the officer the message he’d left with them when he ran his tags.

Fields admitted he, too, had sped to his own share of emergency situations in Sullivan County involving children locked in hot cars.

Because of the apparent misunderstanding, Price was nearly arrested at the scene on charges of evading arrest, reckless endangerment and speeding, but the officer dropped all but the speeding charge.

Meanwhile, a Hawkins County deputy was dispatched to the scene to free the child.

Local authorities advise the public to dial 911 as soon as they discover they’ve accidentally locked a child in a vehicle.

“If we receive a call like this, dispatch normally sends both THP police and rescue to the scene,” THP spokesman Mike Browning said Tuesday.

Sullivan and Hawkins County dispatchers agreed that they, too, typically send police and rescue units to the scene.

In Kingsport, a dispatcher advised that they alert the deputy fire chief on call, who has tools on hand that can unlock most vehicles.

In the city, the dispatcher added, a BOLO (Be On the Lookout) is issued for the vehicle of any person they believe will be speeding — for any reason — if the person is not an authorized emergency responder.

Kingsport Fire Department Capt. Harvey Bowen added that if the tools don’t work or if he feels the deputy chief can’t get there quickly enough, a fire engine would be dispatched to break a front window out.

On days when temperatures are in the 90s and higher, Bowen said it’s important for the public to understand that, although shading the windows from direct sunlight might help marginally, there’s no real way to cool a vehicle, and it “can get really hot, really fast — it can develop into an emergency very fast.”

Locksmiths or any other individual whose vehicles are unauthorized (lacking sirens or flashing lights) have no “right to speed” under any circumstances, Browning said.

If a locksmith is called and conditions warrant a speedy response, Browning said the locksmith should either call 911 or advise the caller to do so.

If the locksmith decides instead to speed to the scene, then he “will be stopped and questioned by a trooper who witnesses the violation,” Browning said. “An unauthorized motorist can’t put others in danger when he’s not in an authorized vehicle.”

It also would be up to the officer’s discretion whether or not to write a ticket if he stopped someone responding to an emergency in an unauthorized vehicle, Browning concluded.

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