For almost five hours, the infant girl remained strapped in her car seat, forgotten in a day-care center van that was parked in the sun on a 91-degree day.
According to authorities, the 4-month-old was picked up from her home on Wednesday morning along with other children headed to the Ewing’s Love and Hope Preschool and Academy in Jacksonville, Fla. But when her mother called at about 1 p.m. to make arrangements for her children, day-care employees realized the baby had never been checked in.
When they opened the van, the girl was still there, sitting in the third row. And she was unresponsive.
The day-care employees called emergency services, who attempted to resuscitate the girl and took her to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Authorities have not released her name.
Jacksonville sheriff’s office assistant chief Brian Kee told reporters on Wednesday that the child appeared to have died from a "heat-related injury” but that a homicide investigation was underway.
On Wednesday, the Jacksonville sheriff’s office arrested the day-care center’s co-owner and director, Darryl Ewing, for child neglect. The 56-year-old was the sole driver of the van and was responsible for logging all the children transported in the vehicle, according to a department statement.
The sheriff’s office said Ewing was taken to a police station, where he refused to talk to detectives. He was later booked into jail.
He appeared in court on Thursday, a local ABC affiliate, First Coast News, reported. He was charged with child neglect and is being held on a $75,000 bond.
The sheriff’s office said his actions “failed to provide the victim with the necessary supervision and provide services to protect the victim’s physical health," which “contributed to the death of the victim.”
Ewing’s Love and Hope Preschool Academy had not notified the Florida Department of Children and Families, which regulates day-care centers, that it would be transporting children, according to the agency. Therefore, its transportation methods were not being monitored.
DCF has issued an emergency suspension order to cease operations at the day-care center, which had been licensed by the agency since 2016.
Regulations require day-care facility drivers to keep a thorough log of all children transported in the vehicle, and a signature of a second staffer to verify that all children have left the vehicle. Drivers must also conduct visual inspections to make sure no child is left in the vehicle.
“DCF immediately opened a joint child death and child-care licensing investigation in coordination with law enforcement,” DCF secretary Chad Poppell said in a statement. “We will continue to support this family as they mourn the loss of their baby girl.”
The day-care facility had received two “Class II violations,” which the agency defines as a violation that “could be anticipated to pose a threat to the health, safety or well-being of a child, although the threat is not imminent," and 13 “Class III violations,” which are less severe and “pose a low potential for harm to children.”
A co-owner of the day care, Gloryian Ewing, was arrested in December 2017 and charged with child abuse after a parent alleged she had beaten two children, First Coast News reported. Ewing entered a pretrial intervention program and the charges were dropped in March 2019, according to records obtained by FCN.
The 4-month-old is not the first infant to die after being left in a car in recent days. On Saturday, a 1-year-old girl died in Indianapolis after she was left in a car with her mother on an 84-degree day, Fox 59 reported. Her death is under investigation and results could take eight weeks, officials said.
In 2018, 52 children died in hot cars, according to the National Safety Council, and an average of 38 children die annually because of vehicular heat stroke. And the fatalities are preventable. More than half of these deaths occur because a child is forgotten in the car.