A life-changing mistake can be made in an instant.
For most parents, the idea of hurting their child is unthinkable. But for a tragic few, a small change to a daily routine is all it takes to turn the unthinkable into reality.
On tonight’s 60 Minutes, parents who left their children in hot cars to die tell of the unimaginable grief that follows such a fatal mistake.
For Kristie and Brett Cavaliero, their daughter Sophia (or Ray Ray, as they called her) was the most precious baby on earth.
“She was so beautiful. She was so perfect. She was such a good little girl,” gushes Brett. His wife Kristie agrees.
“I would say she was the perfect baby.”
But tragedy struck Sophia’s charmed life three years ago, when Brett strapped Sophia into her car seat and forgot to deliver her to daycare.
“He headed down the driveway and down the hill and, that morning, he turned right. And we don’t know what happened. We don’t know why,” Kristie told 60 Minutes host Michael Usher.
Throughout the morning, Brett had no idea that his little girl, who he had carefully dressed in a tropical-themed dress that morning, wasn’t at daycare where he believed he had taken her.
“In my mind, when I was at work, I just… I’m picturing her at day care with that tropical dress on and it’s never…never came to me that she was in my truck.”
It was only later that day, when Kristie picked him up for lunch, that the realisation hit home.
“We were driving down to a restaurant not far from his office and we were just talking about how cute she looked that day and he got really quiet. And I said, ‘What is going on?’ And that’s when he said, ‘I can’t remember dropping Ray off at day care.’ And my heart just sank,” Kristie told Usher.
The couple rushed back to Brett’s truck, but after four hours in the blistering heat, it was far too late for Sophia.
It’s a tragedy that neither Brett not Kristie has quite come to terms with.
“I still don’t know [how I could do that]. I still ask myself all the time but I’ll never get the answer to that.
“If it was a choice between taking one life or another, I begged, ‘Take mine,'” Brett admits.
“It was easily the most horrific day of both our lives,” Kristie says.
Brett and Kristie are not the only parents to have lived through such a terrifying ordeal. Over the past three years in Australia, there have been seven deaths caused by leaving a child in a hot car – and in every case, the parent responsible was unaware of what they had done until it was too late.
In America, the problem is just as common. Mary Parkes, mother to two adopted boys, discovered she’d left her son, Juan, in a hot car for eight hours after forgetting to drop him to day care. Mary only realised her mistake when got a call from one of her son’s teachers saying they had missed him at school that day.