Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Whose Fault is it Anyway?

     By now I'm sure most of you know my attitude on sensational journalism, especially when it comes to highlighting cute, little white children or hot, young white women. (If you're new and you don't know, then welcome aboard! You'll find out pretty quickly.) The news of three young boys found dead in their grandmother's car trunk a few weeks ago was tragic. And it's commendable that their plight was highlighted while they were still missing, even though they were middle-class Hispanics. In short, the three boys were playing in one of the boy's grandmother's car. They opened the trunk, climbed in, and got stuck there. The families called the police and a massive search in Camden, NJ got underway. Nobody thought to search the car, which was unused and in an overgrown yard. Originally, I said (to my wife, not to the blogosphere) that this was a tragic situation where nobody was to blame. Children do stupid things sometimes. Stories like The Bridge to Terabithia and My Girl have always freaked me out, as the childrens' deaths are all but unpreventable. I once saw a TV movie when I was a kid that showed a boy falling backwards out of his treehouse and breaking his spine, dying instantly. I had nightmares for weeks.
     I empathized with the Camden boys, too. I related to my wife a story of my own from when I was their age. My parents had a minivan. The back seat folded down, and when the back hatch was closed, it created a small space in the bottom rear corner of the vehicle. I was curious what it was like back there, so I pulled the hatch shut, lay down, and pulled the seat on top of me until it clicked. I couldn't tell you what it was like, because immediately I realized I'd done something stupid. I was jammed in there tight and could barely move a muscle. It took several minutes of panicked wiggling to move my arm enough to release the seat. Had I pulled this stunt in something like a refrigerator or had I been maybe 10 pounds fatter, I might have been in real trouble.
     That being said, my whole attitude changed (towards one of the families, not the boys) today when I read that evidence showed that the boys were still alive when the police search began. Nobody thought to seach the grandmother's car. It wasn't until days later when one of the fathers opened the trunk that the grisly discovery was made. Now the Cruz family is holding the police responsible for the deaths. "However, a lawyer for Anibal Cruz's family said responsibility for the deaths is now 'squarely on the shoulders of the police.'" The Cruz family has not decided whether or not to sue.
     Now, it's true that the police are undergoing an internal investigation as to why they did not search the car earlier. Clearly, it would have been a smart place to look, especially since hindsight is the proverbial 20-20 and the case got national attention. But that doesn't make the tragedy their fault. A) The boys were unsupervised. B) The car in question was unlocked and witnesses remember seeing the boys playing in it. C) Neither the owner of the car nor the family of the owner of the car nor the family of the other two boys thought to look in the car at any point. Mrs. Cruz, if you really want to assign blame (although I believe there is none to assign), point the finger at yourself for not teaching your son to keep himself out of danger. Point the finger at yourself for not looking in the car. Don't blame their deaths on the people who came out to help. They didn't lock your son in the trunk and they didn't prevent you from finding them.
     It's interesting to note that at least one mother says she has no intentions of suing. Iraida Agosto, the mother of the 6-year old, whose husband found the bodies, is not blaming anyone. It "isn't going to help us bring him back," she wisely said. It's also interesting to note that the Cruz boy was the 11-year old, the one who should have known better.

12 comments:

Mike said...

That's the big story in the local news here in Philly these days. The family is debating whether to sue the police, the car manufacturer, or both.

I'll just say I agree with Scott 100%. This is just a tragic accident where if anyone is to blame it is the parents. My parents taught me from a young age the car is not a place to play. Their parents should have done the same. When those kids went missing the entire community showed up to help with the search. Now the family wants to sue the police station for millions. The burden will fall on the local tax payers, ironically, the very people who showed up to help with the search.

Alisa said...

The whole situation was a tragedy and suing the police department for responsibility just smacks of disgusting behavior. You're right when you point out that the boys were unsupervised and seen playing by the car.

I think the 11 year old boy suffered from mental retardation (if I remember right) which is which is why he didn't know any better.

The 6 year old's family is very wise. Dragging this out in court is not going to bring their child back.

Ben said...

Our society is too ready to blame other people for their problems, and much too ready to sue. Tort reform and some sort of restraint on the fees lawyers take might help, but I'm not educated enough on the subject to really know. I just know that as long as lawyers are getting thousands each timne they convince a client to sue to shift blame to someone else, we have a problem.

Shannon said...

I almost blogged about this as well. I just don't understand how the police can or should be held responsible. I recall a quote where someone from the Cruz family said they didn't look in the trunk because they thought the police had. Now, when I loose my keys, I seem to look and re-look in the same spot 100 times. I can't imagine if this were my child.

Yeah, it's tragic, but I think the Cruz's attitude is even more so.

Don't leave an unlocked abandoned car in your yard around unsupervised children.

Sylvana said...

The police are not at fault. The parents could have just as easily looked in that car and they did not. It is horrible what happened to those boys, but the real people at fault are the parents who let their young children run around unsupervised, and the person who left the car unlocked so that the boys could even get access to the trunk. I know in many states that if you leave a refrigerator abandoned, you must remove the door or you will be held accountable if someone were to be injured or killed getting trapped inside.

Ben said...

I never understood the refrigerator thing. Is it that hard to open one from the inside? It seems so easy from the outside.

Mike said...

Ben, current refrigerators have been adapted to have no latch. They just have the adhesive seal. The old style refrigerators, maybe before 1980, had a latch that would lock the refrigerator shut with no way of opening it from the inside.

Ben said...

Well that explains it!, Thanks Mike. Guess I was just born too late to be able to trap myself in a fridge.

ORF said...

At the risk of being a complete asshole, I'd like to redefine the American Dream: you know you've achieved it when you come here and you sue someone else for your own negligence.

sideshow bob said...

Why don't we finally get to the heart of the matter and just sue God already?

ORF said...

firreals, doh, Bob. firreals.

Mainline Mom said...

Having watched this on the local Philly news since the kids first went missing, my throat was in my stomach when I heard that the boys were found in the car in one of their own yards, where they had been playing before disappearing. I have to say that I do blame the police on this one. A police officer specifically told everyone he had already searched the car. Someone did eff up. However, I don't agree with suing the police. Having just finished being sued myself I know firsthand that the only people who really win are the lawyers. I won, the people suing me lost, and I still had to pay my lawyer a couple hundred grand.