Deputy’s quick work saves infant from locked car

A Houma medical assistant had her worst day ever as a mother Friday afternoon, when her infant daughter was accidentally locked in her car outside the Southland Mall.

Quick work by a Terrebonne Parish deputy, however, resulted in a reunion of mother and child with no injury or illness resulting.

Derion Smith had stopped off at a jewelry store because a diamond had fallen from her engagement ring, carrying the five-month-old baby, whose name is Paisley. After taking care of her business she returned to the parked 2014 Kia that was in the mall parking lot.

Dutifully, the 22-year-old first-time mother secured Paisley in her car seat. She closed the door and realized the keys were still on the car’s rear seat, and that the doors were automatically locked.

“There’s supposed to be a safeguard,” said Derion, who learned to her horror that the safeguard for whatever reason had not worked. Her baby, Derion realized, was trapped inside a car that on a hot July day was about to turn into a roasting oven.

Realizing she had little time to spare, Derion called the Terrebonne Sheriff’s Office and as assured by a dispatcher that help was on the way.

It was a busy afternoon for the TPSO and Lt. Dougas Chauvin was the closest available deputy. As Chauvin rushed to the scene from the east side of Houma, Derion began to cry. As heat built up in the car Paisley began to cry as well.

“That was the longest ten minutes of my life,” Derion said. “I thought I was the worst mom ever.”

Upon his arrival Lt. Chauvin popped the vehicle’s lock. After turning on the car and its air conditioner, Derion removed Paisley from the car seat and comforted her. Lt. Chauvin accepted heartfelt thanks from the nearly heartbroken young mom and went on his way.

“I hugged her and told her I love her so much,” Derion said, recalling what occurred after she snatched Paisley out of the car.

The grateful mother and her liberated daughter headed to the mall, to do a little window shopping while the baby cooled off.

Once-burned and twice shy, Derion and her fiancé, Zeth Naquin, have begun shopping for another vehicle.

For Lt Chauvin, the rescue was all in a day’s work, work that he had done attentively despite a heavy heart. His father, Douglas “Chubby” Chauvin Sr., a veteran deputy and constable for the Bourg area, had died Monday morning and two days before the call to the mall had been given a hero’s funeral.

When she finally left the mall parking lot, Derion said, she realized the experience had taught her two valuable lessons.

“The biggest thing is to try to stay calm as much as you can and call for help as soon as you can because it can take a while,” Derion said. “The other thing is leave your keys in the ignition or on top of the car. “

Saturday afternoon Derion and Zeth were shopping for a new car, though it’s something the young couple hadn’t planned on doing for a while.

Deputy Doug Chauvin Jr. with distressed mother Derion Smith and her baby, Paisley.