Baby’s death in van raises big questions
Officials probe events
By O’Ryan Johnson, Dave Wedge and Ira Kantor
Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Distraught relatives of a dead Dorchester boy — who authorities said died after apparently being left for hours in a hot school van — huddled in his mother’s apartment last night looking at pictures of the cherub-cheeked tot with the bright smile.

“Whatever they’re doing, it’s broken,” said a man who identified himself as the tot’s heartsick uncle. The Herald is withholding the family’s names pending official disclosure.

“This is a tragedy. This needs to be the last child this happens to,” the man said. “Every summer you hear about someone leaving a child in a van. It takes five seconds. Turn around, take a walk around the van.”

He said the child’s day care called the mother yesterday afternoon wondering where the boy was. That touched off a chain of events that led the boy’s mother to discover her child was dead.

The shocking discovery of a dead 13-month-old baby boy in a van parked outside a Dorchester home day care brought inspectors swarming on what they said was a violation-riddled facility and sent the traumatized van driver to the hospital.

The helpless tot was left unattended for “a significant amount of time” yesterday, possibly all day, as temperatures hit 82 degrees, Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said. After an hour, the temperature inside a parked, closed vehicle can top 120 degrees, weather officials said.

Police said they were questioning the van’s driver, who they did not identify by name. Davis said the driver is married to the woman who operates the Floyd Street day care, where the van was parked. Officials said the boy did not attend the day care where the van was parked, but the facility was inspected after the boy was found. State day care records list the owner as Gloria Luna, who operates Gloria Luna’s Daycare, which was relicensed in June by state officials. Cops and Boston EMS arrived about 3:45 p.m., when the van’s driver found the boy unresponsive.

“The driver was taken from the scene for reports of chest pain,” Davis said.

Davis said the van picks up and drops off children for several child-care businesses, including the driver’s wife’s day care.

Lisa Timberlake of the city’s Inspectional Services Department said inspectors found 13 children in the facility, which is licensed for 10 children, and multiple code violations, including no fire extinguishers, no emergency lighting, two broken windows, no certificate of inspection and no carbon-monoxide detectors.

“It’s a good day care,” said Lisaura Lugo, who arrived to pick up her twin 11-month-old boys there yesterday. “I’ve been going there almost a year. I have nothing bad to say.”

Cayenne Isaksen, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Children and Families, said the agency received a report of the child’s death and is also investigating.