MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. (WNDU) An infant was left in a Michigan City Safe Haven Baby Box late Tuesday night.
Emergency responders were dispatched to the Coolspring Township Volunteer Fire Department at 10:24 p.m. after receiving an alert from the box.
Coolspring Fire Chief Mick Pawlik arrived at the station within five minutes and found the newborn infant.
"I just opened (the box), and that baby looked me right in the eyes," Pawlik told reporters at a Wednesday news conference. "I just wanted to pick the baby up and start holding it."
When the ambulance arrived, Pawlik and Assistant Chief Warren, by law, had to ride along to Franciscan St. Anthony's Hospital in Michigan City.
"Him and I were like proud papas in the back of this ambulance," said Pawlik.
According to police, the infant appeared to be healthy and in good condition. Smith believes that the girl was about one hour old since it was not cleaned from birth and still had its umbilical cord attached.
"I would really like to thank the mother who did this, for doing the right thing. She stepped up to the plate and did the right thing by turning the baby into the baby box instead of us finding the baby in the ditch, in the woodlines, dumpster like we hear so many horrible stories we all hear," expressed Smith.
Firefighter Nick Fekete, who found the baby with Pawlik, said he was glad to be a part of the experience, echoing the chief's admiration for the mother of the infant.
"I have the utmost praise for the mother just because you don’t know what she was going through or the situation or anything like that, and it's just a great decision instead of it could have been a lot worse or a lot different," said Fekete.
Currently, the infant is in the care of the Indiana Department of Children and Family Services. The chief and assistant chief said they are willing to adopt the baby.
"Yeah, my wife said, 'Bring the infant home!'" said Smith.
What is a Safe Haven Baby Box?
Tuesday was the first time someone ever had placed a baby inside a Safe Haven Baby Box. The one at Coolspring Township Volunteer Fire Department was installed on April 28, 2016, and is the second such device in the United States (the other is located at a fire department near Fort Wayne).
Pawlik said the box is padded and insulated but has holes to keep a baby cooler when the weather is warm. Furthermore, once someone opens it, the box locks from the outside. Pawlik said a silent alarm notifies an alarm company, which pages firefighters. If an object (e.g. a baby) crosses a laser plane, a second silent alarm notifies the LaPorte County 911 dispatch center that something is in the box.
Indiana has a safe haven law that allows for a newborn infant to be given up anonymously without fear of arrest of prosecution.
No cameras surround the baby box at Coolspring Township Volunteer Fire Department.
According to Pawlik, the Safe Haven Baby Box should be a last resort for a mother who wishes to give up her baby. Preferably, a mother should take the baby to a hospital before she takes it to a paid fire station or police station, he said. The box at Coolspring Township is present in case a mother cannot make face-to-face contact.