Deputy Who Saved 1-Year-Old from Hot Car Says He Had to Act Quickly: 'Life or Death Situation'

The toddler's parents have not been charged, but the Florida Department of Children and Families has been notified

  • Flagler County Sheriff's Deputy Christian Harrison tells PEOPLE he was facing a "life or death situation" when he rescued a 1-year-old girl from a hot car on May 20

  • “I'm like, ‘Okay, so it's obviously too hot. It's been 10 minutes, we have to act now,’ ” he says

  • The parents have not been charged, but the Florida Department of Children and Families was notified

The Florida deputy who saved a 1-year-old girl trapped inside a hot car this week is opening up to PEOPLE about the heart-stopping rescue, which was captured on camera.

Flagler County Sheriff's Deputy Christian Harrison says he was heading to assist on another call on Monday, May 20, when he was alerted that a child had been locked in a hot car at a Palm Coast Walmart.

“[The parents] accidentally locked the child in the vehicle that wasn't running,” he says. “So at that point, I check all the door handles just to confirm that all the doors are locked and the vehicle is confirmed to not be running.”

Harrison shares that it was also the first hot car incident where he faced a “legitimate life or death situation" and he had to act quickly — especially since the fire department was at least five minutes away from the scene, so there was no waiting for them.

Related: Prevent Hot-Car Deaths: A Checklist for Parents

As seen in his body camera footage, after observing the child to be "sweating" and seemingly in physical distress, the deputy decided to take action.

Although the woman protested "no no no" after being told he was going to smash the window — even asking at one point if he had a tool to open the car without damaging it — Harrison tells PEOPLE that he had no choice.

“I'm like, ‘Okay, so it's obviously too hot. It's been 10 minutes, we have to act now,’ ” he says. “I don't think she understood how hot a car can get in that amount of time. Even if it doesn't feel that hot outside."

Related: 5-Year-Old Boy Found Dead After Being Left in a Hot Car Outside a Texas Elementary School

He says he went to his patrol car and used a tool to break the window. He then cleared the remaining glass with his baton and unlocked the car, as the video showed.

After being rescued, the girl was assessed by the Palm Coast Fire Department and was "determined to be okay, despite the exposure to extreme heat," per an FCSO release previously obtained by PEOPLE.

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No charges have been filed at this time, but the Florida Department of Children and Families was notified, Harrison says.

Related: 3-Year-Old Boy Dies in Hot Car Outside Fla. Preschool Where Both His Parents Worked

Speaking with PEOPLE, Sheriff Rick Staly praised Deputy Harrison, saying "he knew exactly what he needed to do."

“Florida is a very hot state,” he adds. “It was about 80-some-odd degrees that day. And 10 minutes in a car can easily raise the inside temperature of the car to 100 degrees. Another 10 minutes, about 110.”

The sheriff, who has been in law enforcement for nearly 50 years, shares that Flagler County hasn’t had any children die from a hot car.

According to, on average, 37 children under the age of 14 die each year in hot cars, and 100% of those deaths are avoidable. The organization has recorded 969 pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths since 1998.

“You got to rescue a child quickly because they can get dehydrated and then go into heat exhaustion and then potentially die,” Staly says. “You don't have time to wait. You got to act right away.”

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