A Florida toddler was found dead late Monday in a hot day-care van after police said the driver failed to conduct a head count and notice that the boy had been forgotten.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said during a news conference Tuesday that Myles K. Hill, who would have turned 4 later this month, died after he was apparently left all day in a hot vehicle parked outside Little Miracles Academy on Plymouth Avenue in Orlando.
“This is an absolute tragedy, which could have been prevented,” Mina said, urging caregivers to always check their vehicles for children, according to CBS affiliate WKMG.
Mina said criminal charges are pending against the day-care worker, who he noted was “extremely distraught,” although authorities are still awaiting the autopsy results.
The police chief said when Myles was not dropped off at home at the end of the day, his grandmother and legal guardian called Little Miracles Academy and police to report that he was missing. A day-care worker checked the van, Mina said, and police received a call from the day care about an unresponsive child in a vehicle. Temperatures in Orlando reached 93 degrees Fahrenheit that day.
“I was on the phone with her and she started to scream, ‘He’s in the van, dead!’ ” Barbara Livingston, Myles’s aunt, told the Orlando Sentinel about the boy’s grandmother.
When officers arrived about 8:30 p.m., they found the 3-year-old on the floor in the back seat of the vehicle, Mina said. He was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
“If you leave your child with someone, that person has the responsibility of taking care of them,” Livingston told the newspaper. “He had to lose his life because of someone’s neglect. It’s not right. It’s not right at all. If you have six kids get in the van, you make sure six kids get out of the van.”
— Karla Ray (@KRayWFTV) August 8, 2017
An initial investigation revealed that the day-care worker, who has not been identified by police, transported Myles and other children Monday morning from one Little Miracles Academy to another location, police said.
The worker returned to the day-care center on Plymouth Avenue about 9 a.m., police said, and did not realize that Myles was still in the van. The van was parked outside the center the entire day, with Myles in it, police said.
Livingston, 71, Myles’s aunt, told WKMG that she had asked a day-care worker where the toddler was and she was told that he was “gone.”
When Livingston asked, “Gone where?” she said the employee pointed to the van. “I’m numb. I don’t know how to feel,” she told WKMG.
On Tuesday night, Myles’s family members, friends and neighbors gathered around a makeshift memorial that had been created for the boy outside the day-care center.
Corey Esters, Myles’s grandfather, told the newspaper the day-care center’s owners, Audrey and Bryant Thornton, had not reached out to them, which he said was upsetting because he has known Audrey for many years.
“We know her; we went to school together. It would’ve been different if she had come out,” Esters said.
“The fact that we know her personally and that she hasn’t come out … it would’ve been easier to forgive.”
So far in 2017, 32 children have died from heatstroke after being left in hot cars, according to a national database. Data shows that since 1998, 732 children have died that way.
Authorities said the Florida Department of Children and Families will conduct an institutional investigation.
State records dating to 2015 show that Little Miracles Academy has been cited for lax practices regarding personnel records, supervision and transportation, according to CNN. In July, the center was cited for failing to log destination and arrival times and location when transporting the children, according to an inspection report.
Little Miracles did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Local news media reported that the facility was closed. A Facebook page for the center appeared to be deactivated and the website was down.