A 97-year-old Acton woman is recovering in a Burlington hospital after she was left alone in a sweltering vehicle at a Burlington plaza on Dundas St. Saturday afternoon. Witnesses reported to Halton Police that Phyllis Arnott was left in a black SUV with the front windows open about eight cm for almost an hour. The temperature in the vehicle was in excess of 50 C. Charged with failing to provide the necessities of life are Arnott's daughter and granddaughter Bonnie Bouclair, 60, and Kimberly Bouclair, 36.
Acton women claim leaving 97-year-old in SUV `an accident'
The daughter and granddaughter of a 97-year-old woman facing charges after allegedly locking a frail senior in a sweltering SUV for about an hour in a Burlington parking lot on the weekend say it was an "accident" and wished it never happened. Bonnie Bouclair, 60, and her
daughter Kimberly Bouclair, 36, said they stopped at the SmartCenters plaza Saturday afternoon and went into Wal-Mart to purchase Tylenol for Phyllis Arnott's headache. With Arnott locked in the 2003 GMC Envoy, the Acton women said they also shopped for some dog food, clothes and shoes and spent time in a checkout lineup. They estimate they were gone no more than 30 minutes while Halton police say it was almost an hour. "It was a mere accident," Bonnie said Monday from behind the locked iron-gate at the front of her Acton home. "We weren't expecting to be in there that long." The Bouclairs have been charged by Halton Police with failure to provide the necessities of life. They are scheduled to appear in Milton court Aug. 25. As part of the bail conditions, Arnott will not be placed back in the custody of her daughter and granddaughter, but it wasn't clear where she would stay, said Sgt. Tim Fredo. The temperature in the 2003 black GMC Envoy rose to a stifling 50C (122 F) by the time paramedics raced to the scene at around 4 p.m. Arnott was rushed to Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital with severe dehydration, said Fredo. As of yesterday (Tuesday), the senior remained in hospital. A spokesperson for Jo Brant said Arnott will stay in the hospital until her health improves. Arnott-- described as "very frail" and completely dependent for help-- was seen by passersby at the plaza at Dundas St. at Appleby Line, suffering in the SUV's back seat with the front windows rolled down about three inches, Fredo said. Arnott was seen trying to raise her head high enough to reach and gasp for air from the slight window opening. The temperature on Saturday afternoon hit 36C including the humidex, police noted. Kelsey's waiter Jake Stasuk was among the first to help Arnott. He said he was shocked when he saw tiny Arnott struggling in the back seat of the blistering locked SUV during the hottest weekend of the year. Stasuk rushed into the restaurant to fetch three bottles of water for the dehydrated senior. He did his best to keep her attention as she quickly drank all of the bottles in about 15 minutes. The restaurant's owner called 911 as Stasuk decided to try to reach into the window of the Envoy. He said he managed to unlock the door and help Arnott get out, reassuring her until emergency crews arrived. "It's a terrible situation," he recalled Monday afternoon. "Just like a kid, she was helpless."
The Bouclairs came out of the plaza to see paramedics helping Arnott. They identified themselves to police. Shoppers at the plaza on Monday expressed outrage that an elderly woman would be left in an over-heated car. "I don't know how someone could do something like that," said Wendy Dunston. "It's shocking," said Shannon Robichaud, out with her six-month-old Kylie. According to research, it doesn't take long for youngsters in a hot vehicle to begin suffering heat stress, dehydration, shock or even death. According to Safe Kids Canada, the temperature inside a parked car can exceed 50C (122F) within 10-20 minutes on a typical sunny summer day. "Within 40 minutes, it will get so hot that a child inside the car could die. Opening the window slightly does not keep the temperature at a safe level," the website stated. The Bouclairs, however, said Arnott is fine with the heat. Kimberly said at the time they didn't realize how hot it was, but added that her grandmother "doesn't mind the heat so much." "It's just a stupid thing, if we could take it back (we would)," said Kimberly. She stressed that her grandmother is "well loved" and they are eager to bring her home. "We were intending to help her get something for her headache," said Bonnie, who was shocked police charged them with failing to provide the necessities of life. She thought they would have received just a strict warning. "That's for somebody that starves people as far as we're concerned," said Bonnie. "I feel that everybody is going to think we're cruel, and that makes us sad." The Arnott case has Fredo puzzled. He described the SUV as a "vehicle sauna." She is weak enough that she can't open a car door on her own, Fredo said. "You really have to feel for the woman," he said. "She's 97 and she needs the support of her family to take care of her." Never leave vulnerable people alone, he said, and take them with you wherever you're going. "It seems so basic not to leave anybody unattended in a locked vehicle." The case has generated considerable national media and international attention