A 72-year-old man’s dream car turned out to be a nightmare this week.
James Rogers of Port Arthur, Texas and his dog Leia apparently died of heat exhaustion Monday afternoon when they became trapped inside his 2007 Corvette.
Justice of the Peace Marc Derouen pronounced Rogers dead and ordered an autopsy. Police do not suspect suicide or foul play.
What makes the tragedy so heartbreaking is that it didn’t have to happen. Apparently, Rogers didn’t know about the emergency handle beside his seat that would have popped open his electronic door and allowed them to escape from the Corvette.
We would urge all C6 and C7 Corvette owners to become acquainted with this handle NOW. It could save their lives one day. I had to use it one day in my 2005 coupe when I locked the door without having my keys in my pocket, but fortunately I was in the basement of my house out of the heat and had time to read the owner’s manual and find the emergency handle.
Rogers and his pet lost their lives in the parking lot of the Waffle House on Jimmy Johnson Boulevard in Port Arthur, where Rogers was a regular. Frantic employees called another regular, M.J. Ponsegrau, to the restaurant to try and help them escape.
But it was too late.
James Rogers and his dog Leia. Photo Credit: KBMT
Rogers’ daughter, Tricia Hernandez, believes her father possibly died while looking through the owner’s manual to find out what to do. That can be a daunting task in the very thick manual, especially in a panic-type situation, though.
She believes he tried valiantly to escape but just couldn’t make it in time. Unfortunately, he couldn’t call for help either because he had apparently just gone outside to check on his dog and planned to return to the restaurant since he left his phone charging inside.
It might not have made a difference, though, since not many folks outside the Corvette world know about the emergency handle. Ponsegrau and first responders didn’t know how to open the door either. Eventually, firefighters did break the window, but it proved to be too late.
Now, Rogers’ three children and five grandchildren must get ready for a funeral on Thursday, June 11 at 7 p.m. at Levingston Funeral Home in Groves, with Reverend D. Stephen McCrate officiating. A visitation for family and friends will be held on Thursday evening from 5 to 7 p.m. at the funeral home.
Our condolences to the family. We hope they can take solace in the fact that the publicity from the freak deaths may have helped educate other Corvette owners and save them from a similar fate.
We’d also encourage anyone who sells Corvettes to take a few minutes and always make it a point to acquaint newcomers to the fold with the emergency handle.