Five-year-old Christopher Gardner’s mother said her son was picked up by his daycare at 6:40 a.m. He arrived at Ascent Children’s Health Services facility in West Memphis, Arkansas, sometime around 7:15 a.m.Screenshot/WMC
By 3:30 p.m. that afternoon, the little boy was dead.
Now Gardner’s family and officials are trying to determine what happened in the hours preceding the young boy’s death.
As WMC reports, Garnder had been attending Ascent Children’s Health Services facility since he was one year old for developmental issues, having already undergone two heart surgeries in his short life.
Around 6:30 a.m. on June 12, Gardner’s mother said she signed a sheet of paper confirming her son had been picked up by the school’s transportation van.
Sources told WMC that once the van arrived to Ascent approximately 45 minutes later, Gardner was signed into the daycare facility.
Tragically, eight hours later when staff returned to load children to go home, Gardner was found dead in his booster seat. He had never made it off the van.Screenshot/WMC
Temperatures were recorded at 80 degrees that day, and reportedly reached 141 degrees inside the van.
According to WMC, Gardner’s mother was too distraught to speak on camera, but the boy’s great grandmother, Carrie Smith, said:
“You can see that my great-grandbaby suffered in that van. That wasn’t right.”
As CNN reports, Smith described Gardner as a sweet child, and she would always wait for him to get off the van when he returned home from daycare. Smith said he would ask the same question each day:
“When he got off the van he’d say, ‘Granny, have you got me a cookie today?'”
A former employee, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke with WMC about the daycare’s protocol to ensure that children are not left on the van.
“Something was distracting them to not see him on that van all day.”
The woman, who had worked at Ascent within the past six months, explained it was routine to check the van three times after children were taken off.
“When we pull up in the front, we blow the horn, they come out and check and then once we go to the back, we get out and check,” the former employee said.
The former employee stated that at least two adults are required to be on the van at all times. Two adults, the driver and an another staff member, were reportedly on the van that had picked up Gardner.
Ascent is currently under investigation by the state’s Department of Human Services (DHS).
As WMC reports, according to department records the facility had previously received three minor citations by DHS during the last four visits; however, none of the infractions were transportation related.
A spokesman for DHS called the incident at the daycare an “awful tragedy” and claimed the department would be looking into licensing issues at the facility.
ChildcareCenter.us lists Ascent as a licensed daycare operator.
The West Memphis Police Department is currently investigating the matter as well, and no arrests have been made.
Angry, Smith told WMC:
“They didn’t get off their, excuse my language, off their a*s and look. I’m very upset about it. They didn’t look, and they can’t tell me they looked,” Smith said. “They didn’t.”
The case is being forwarded to the district attorney’s office.
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