WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. – Four employees have been charged with manslaughter after a 5-year-old boy was left in a hot daycare van all day and died.
Christopher Gardner, Jr. was found dead in a booster seat eight hours after the van arrived at Ascent Children’s Health Services Monday, June 12.
West Memphis Police Chief Donald Oakes said four people could have stopped the child’s death had they done their jobs and checked on the van.
They are identified as (left to right in photo): Felicia Phillips, 42 (driver); Pamela Robinson, 43 (adult rider); Wanda Taylor, 43 (transportation supervisor); and Kendra Washington, 40 (van safety director).
In a Friday morning news conference, police said the surface temperature of the van seat was measured at 141 degrees when the child was found.
Police say the women charged in the case will remain jailed over the weekend and will have a bond hearing on Monday morning.
Ascent Children’s Health Services CEO Dan Sullivan admits some employees didn’t follow correct protocol and were fired.
Here’s what happened:
According to the police report, around 3:50 p.m. on June 12, 2017, police were called to Ascent Child Health Services at 413 West Tyler Cove in reference to a 5-year-old boy not breathing and unconscious. When the officer arrived, he said he saw the boy sitting in a booster seat in the back row of the daycare van. The officer said the toddler had blood coming out of his nose and his head was tilted to the right.
The officer spoke with the Ascent Child Health Services bus driver, a 42-year-old woman from Marion. She told the officer she picked up Christopher at 6:23 a.m. along with the first group of children and dropped them off at the daycare at 7:13 a.m. She then left to go pick up the second round of children and returned to the daycare to drop them off. After both groups of kids were dropped off at the daycare, the bus driver said another employee, a 40-year-old woman from West Memphis, checked the van for children who said there were not any children on the bus. When the employee told her there were no children on the bus, the bus driver clocked out and left.
When the officer asked the bus driver if anyone in the building had noticed Christopher in any of the classrooms during that day, she said no one had seen him.
The bus driver told police she returned to work at the end of the day, around 3:30 p.m., to take the children home. When she went to start the van, she noticed Christopher was still in the van, unresponsive and unconscious.
The officer then spoke with another employee, a 43-year-old woman from West Memphis, who was on the bus with the driver that morning. The employee corroborated what the bus driver said — confirming they picked up Christopher at 6:23 a.m. and came back to the daycare where another employee checked the van for children. The woman added that another employee, a 43-year-old from Marion, found Christopher’s shoe, realized he wasn’t in the clinic, and went out to the van to look for him.
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children and DHS were all notified and brought to the scene.
The outdoor temperature was 90 degrees when they arrived. The temperature recorded inside the van was 141 degrees.
Christopher’s internal temperature was taken about 30 minutes after EMS arrived and it was recorded as 97.1 degrees. He was pronounced dead on the scene and the victim’s mother was notified.