KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - A Knoxville mother had one of the scares of her life, after she said her 2-year-old son was found roaming around a busy parking lot, scared and unattended, of a popular East Tennessee gym.
"It killed me," Annabelle Sly said. "I have never been such a mess in my entire life."
Sly was enjoying a Saturday morning workout with a friend at National Fitness Center off Tazewell Pike on Saturday.
Her 2-year-old son Keygan was playing with other children at the gym's drop-off daycare facility. She thought he was safe, until she found Keygan crying, with who the company said was a staff member.
"She found my child wandering around the parking lot and beside her was the childcare manager and the receptionist," Sly said. "I grabbed him up. He was in tears. She said he was wandering, he was scared. She went up to a lady in the parking lot asking if it was her child and she said no and then the Good Samaritan brought him inside."
That person allegedly found little Keygan walking around a parking lot by himself, not far from busy Tazewell Pike. Lee Sloan, National Fitness Center president, said the child was found near the door, not near the road.
However, Sly said the situation could have ended much differently, raising the possibility of being hit by a car or even kidnapped.
"I could have found him in a body bag," Sly said, wiping away tears. "And that killed me, so I just wanted it known and not swept under the rug... that it could happen to anyone's kid and it happened in 30 minutes to mine. I was just lucky that a Good Samaritan found him and didn't take my child."
Sly is still shaken by the incident but hopes lessons will be learned to spare another parent of the scare.
"Just everyone watch your kids," she said to other parents. "By the grace of God, someone was watching over my child."
President of National Fitness Lee Sloan said this is the first time in the gym's 30-year history that something like this has occurred, and there is not a drop-off daycare facility in the area stronger or more structured than the one at National Fitness Center.
"In that club's 30 years of existence, this never happened before," Sloan said by phone.
Still, he takes responsibility for the incident.
"We messed up," Sloan said.
He also said the child walked out of the gym with another family, and he was found in the parking lot by a National Fitness Center employee.
Sloan added the doors of the gym are too heavy for a 2-year-old to open himself.
"I would have been upset if it was my child," he said. "At National Fitness Center, we're a family company. There's no question that we care. I care."
He also said that the gym will be doing some re-training to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.