Around 2 a.m. Tuesday, Uber driver Sylvia Collins turned off the app in her car. She switched into Uber Eats mode and prepared to make her last trip of the night, a food pickup at the McDonald's on Main Street near West Utica Street.
She was northbound on Main when she looked to the right and saw something with her eyes that her mind could not comprehend: "I looked closely and I was like ‘Oh my god!' That’s a baby!’ "
Collins got the 2-year-old child off the street, into her vehicle and then to the hospital – a series of decisions that were hailed by police officials and may have saved the child's life.
The story of her quick thinking came to light several hours later when Buffalo police held a news conference to say that the child who had been reported missing was found and was safe.
Capt. Jeff Rinaldo said the child had apparently wandered away from home while under his grandfather's care. He said the child, who was not named, was spotted by the driver, who took him to Oishei Children's Hospital.
Rinaldo said the child's mother works overnight. When the grandfather awoke Tuesday, he called the mother and 911, enabling police to locate the family.
Rinaldo said the child was found “a couple hundred feet” from the family’s apartment.
That is all thanks to Collins, who was in the right place at the right time.
Collins, 33, of Cheektowaga, a mother of two, is assistant food service director of Garden Gate Nursing Facility. She said she has been driving for the ride-hailing service Uber for about a year.
When she realized that what she saw moving by the side of the road was a toddler, she stopped the car, picked him up, put her coat on him and put him in a seat belt. She said he had pajamas and socks on and did not seem to be injured or in any distress.
"I asked him basic questions – 'What’s your name? Where’s Mommy?' – He said Mommy was at work, and when I asked where, he just pointed," she said.
She said the child told her he was cold so she made sure he was warm and gave him a bottle of water she had in the car. She decided to take him to Children's Hospital to make sure he was OK.
"I just wanted to take him to the safest place, for him and myself," she said.
At the hospital, emergency workers were grateful that someone took the initiative to bring the child in. But Collins said she didn't want to leave him and he seemed to be comfortable with her. So she stayed at the hospital until 6 a.m. and would have stayed longer if she didn't have to be at work by 8.
"I was a familiar face, and there were obviously a ton of people coming in and out of the room, so he gravitated to somebody who was more familiar, a more motherly figure," she said. "I just stayed with him the whole time until he went asleep."
She found out a few hours later that his family was found. “I was so relieved. I was like 'Thank God they found his parents,' " she said.
As for the "hero" moniker that is sure to come her way, she said it's not accurate.
“I just saw a child in need, and just wanted to make sure he was OK and safe and sound," she said. "That was my priority.”
Of course one person ends up unhappy in this otherwise too-good-to-be-true account.
“Someone did not get their food from me,” she said with a laugh. “I had to cancel the order … but I’m pretty sure someone else picked it up.”
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