The parents and family members of Vincent “Vinny” Quintana, the 3-year-boy who died on July 30, spoke to the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol following what they called the “incorrect news” that reported their entire family was taking a long, three-hour midday nap and inferred that they weren’t properly watching their child.
Vinny’s father, Raul Quintana, said he was not napping and news reports that implied that his son was trapped in the car for three hours is also incorrect.
They are also distressed with subsequent Internet postings that attacked their family. Some of the postings called them “Monsters,” and others had racial overtones that referred to them as “irresponsible Mexican parents on welfare.”
Inaccurate news coverage, the Quintana family said, has added to their unbearable heartbreak and fueled the cruel internet postings.
In contrast, on Thursday, July 31, there were neighbors who left notes, flowers and stuffed animals along the fence that surrounded the Quintana’s Sylmar home who described them as tight-knit with a large extended family that often visited them. Neighbors said they were “a nice family,” and it was common to see children playing in the big yard full with toys and a trampoline.
The toddler’s lifeless body was found by his father at approximately 3:30 p.m. Quintana told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol that his son was sitting upright in the passenger front seat inside the family car, parked only a few feet from the front door of their Sylmar home.
A Parent’s Worst Nightmare
“I pulled him from the car into the house,” Quintana sobbed. “He was sweaty and we immediately started giving him CPR; we tried everything while paramedics were called.”
The child, Quintana emphasized, was never left in the car as is what most often occurs in cases of children who’ve died from heat stroke. He said his son somehow crawled into the vehicle.
“He never did that before,” the sobbing father said.
Another family member said she was told that police had lifted finger prints that appeared to be Vinny’s from the car’s outside door handle.
As Quintana described what happened, his wife Alicia Quintana was inconsolable.
“People say really mean things … they don’t know what we’ve been through,” Alicia said.
She said their family has recently had two close relatives fighting cancer and a close family friend who lived with them who was killed on the 210 freeway. With all the pain that has caused, nothing could prepare her for this, she said.
“I’ve read the stories about babies dying in the car in the heat, and I always thought, ‘that would never happen to me,’” she cried.
It isn’t known how long Vinny was in the car, if he was even “trapped” inside the car or crawled into the car and fell asleep while playing with his toys. “I honestly don’t know,” Quintana said.
He estimates it was between 20 to 30 minutes between the time he watched his son walk into the house and discovered him in the car.
“When I found him in the car, he had his backpack next to him that he used to carry his toys and he was still holding toys in his hands. When he went to bed, he would always have a toy in his hand and would fall asleep holding it,” he said.
Quintana said during his time off from work, he had really bonded with his toddler and they had a lot of fun together.
“The day started like any other. We had our breakfast together and I went outside to work in the yard. As was typical, Vinny would eventually come outside to be with me, he was really attached to me, so I would always include him in helping some way.”
Quintana said after a short time outside, he sent his son back into the house for his nap time. He knew how much his son hated the heat. “When it was hot, he wanted to just take off his shirt, shorts and socks.”
Quintana said he watched Vinny enter the house through the backyard entrance.
“It was his routine to go to the air-conditioned bedroom where his mother waited for him. I always followed up and walked around the yard to make sure he was inside and then I went into the house.”
Quintana said he took a peek into the room. “I saw Vinny laying down next to his mom. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t him, it was our other son who came in from his room and fell asleep next to his mother. I saw the top of his head and I thought it was Vinny, so I didn’t think much of it and I sat down on the couch. Alicia got up soon after and asked, ‘Where’s Vinny?’ I said, ‘What do you mean? He’s with you.’”
Frantic, the Quintanas searched the house and the yard. Alicia said that Vinny had come into the bedroom a couple of times earlier but he told her that he was outside helping his Dad in the yard, so she felt assured that he was safe.
A Smart Child
Quintana said that their son was a very smart child and everyone knew to keep eyes on him because he was also a bit of a daredevil; he liked to jump from things. “He thought he was a big boy.”
The couple said they took extra precautions after finding that Vinny figured out how to unlock his car seat, and when they saw that he could even open the car door from the inside they installed child safety locks for the back seat area of their car.
“Before we installed the child locks in the back seat, when we stopped, even at a signal, he would try to get out,” his mother said.
“I know people are saying a lot of negative things about our family. But we have always kept eyes on Vinny, and my wife is a Mama Bear. She has always protected him and I just want people to know that,” Quintana said, adding when Vinny was outside they always kept their curtains open to make sure someone was watching him. “We told him constantly how much we loved him.”
“He just had never climbed into the car like that before,” Quintana repeated. “I’m his father, and I’m responsible for him … Vinny was the center of our lives and now he’s not here….now he’s not here,” Quintana sobbed.
Services for the child are pending while the Coroner’s office conducts an autopsy, which has also been difficult for the family. Friends and family are raising money for the Quintana family at gofundme.com.
The Quintana family said they would like to thank the people who have understood their pain and also thank those who have offered their condolences and prayers. They asked that people including the media respect their family’s privacy and allow them to mourn.