Santa Barbara County prosecutors said Tuesday that they won’t file criminal charges against a woman whose child was seriously burned after being left in a vehicle that caught on fire.
Three-year-old Susie Figueroa received treatment for third-degree burns on her face, hands and feet after her parents’ minivan caught fire on Santa Teresita Drive in Santa Barbara on Feb. 25.
The girl had been left in the minivan while her mother, Viviana Wink, 29, entered a nearby home where she worked as a caretaker.
Wink returned to find the minivan on fire, police Sgt. Riley Harwood told Noozhawk last month.
The mother saw smoke outside the home, and was able to get the child out of the car seat, but not before both suffered burns.
Fire investigators have been unable to determine the cause of the fire.
The District Attorney’s Office stated Tuesday that it has conducted a detailed review of the case as it relates to child endangerment laws, and won’t be filing charges because it doesn’t believe criminal negligence can be proven.
Criminal negligence involves more than ordinary carelessness, inattention, or mistake in judgment, the statement said.
Even briefly leaving the toddler alone in the car was clearly a tragic “mistake in judgment,” but doesn’t rise to the level of criminal act, prosecutors said.
“As a reminder to all parties, merely leaving a child unattended in a car can lead to a criminal prosecution under many circumstances, including, but not limited to, when there are known conditions that present a significant risk to a child’s health and safety, or when the engine is running or the keys are left in the ignition,” the statement said.