CONTENT WARNING: Infant Death
Daycare workers in Florida forgot a baby in the facility’s van for five hours, causing the baby to die from heat-related injuries. The baby girl, whose identity has not been released, was only a few months old.
Police Tried To Resuscitate The Baby
Ewing’s Love & Hope Preschool in Jacksonville, Florida has been in operation since 2015. The preschool has not responded to requests for a comment on the story. However, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has shared some of the confirmed events of the day. Major Crimes Assistant Chief Brian Kee explained the five-month-old baby had been in the van since approximately 8 a.m. when the baby was discovered. Police received a call around 1 p.m. about an unresponsive infant.
The girl was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead. Kee shared the initial physical assessment by doctors point to a heat-related injury as the cause of death. Wednesday saw temperatures as high as 92 degrees Fahrenheit in Jacksonville.
The Baby Was Found In The Van
The baby’s mother called the school midday to make pickup arrangements. Only when the mother called did the school realize the baby was nowhere to be found. Two of the baby’s siblings also attend the same preschool.
When the girl’s mom called, a preschool worker said the girl was not there. The mother panicked and rushed to the preschool, where she found her lifeless daughter in the van. She was still strapped into her car seat in the third row of the van.
The School’s Director Has Been Arrested
Darryl Ewing, the director of the school, was arrested Wednesday night on charges of child neglect. Other daycare employees said Darryl was the only person responsible for transporting the children and “offloading” them upon arrival at the school. A driver’s log shows Ewing checked all three of the siblings in, but only two of the children were checked “out” of the van. Ewing has declined to speak with detectives since his arrest.
"It was determined the suspect’s actions (and lack thereof) failed to provide the victim with the necessary supervision and provide services to protect the victim’s physical health, all of which was essential to the victim’s well-being and contributed to the death of the victim.” - Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office
Florida requires childcare facilities to be specifically licensed in order to transport kids. Ewing’s Love & Hope Preschool was not authorized to use their van to pick up children for school, a service the baby’s mother used regularly. Accordingly, the Florida Department of Children & Families temporarily suspended the facility’s license. DCF is conducting an investigation into the school’s practices.
Hot Cars Can Kill
On average, 38 children die every year from vehicular heatstroke. Unfortunately, 2018 was a year well over the average with 52 child deaths. This baby girl’s death is the 8th of the year. All the children who have suffered fatal vehicular heatstroke this year are two years old or younger. While July is the worst month for heat-related deaths in babies, vehicular heatstroke is a year-round danger. Babies have died in temperatures as low as 60 degrees Fahrenheit!
Cars act as a greenhouse on a hot day. Sunlight enters the car, heating the air trapped inside. Some studies have shown internal air temperatures can reach up to 125 degrees Fahrenheit in mere minutes. In the first ten minutes alone, temperatures soar in a precipitous 80% increase!
Preventing Vehicular Heatstroke
Officials recommend parents establish a safety plan with their childcare provider. If a child doesn’t make it to school, caretakers must call parents to confirm the absence. For personal safety, many parents swear by a reminder to check the backseat. Some use a stuffed animal as a reminder, others put their shoes or bag next to the child. If a child is missing parents should check the pool first, followed immediately by the car.