Child dies in summer heat in daycare van at Macon Road center

Previous van deaths spurred investigation of county daycare system

The child was discovered in the back of a blue minivan, still strapped into a child’s seat. Neighbors said the girl's first name was Amber.

She had been in the van since about 7:30 a.m. when the daycare driver started transporting children, police said. Temperatures in Memphis reached the low 90s Thursday afternoon.

The child was discovered by an employee of the school when who was to transport children home in the afternoon. Detectives were questioning a man who appeared to be the driver.

"It appears she was left in the van all day," said police Major Glenn Williams.

"It was very hot inside (the)’s hard to believe it happened several years ago and last year. You think they’d be more careful," Williams said.

Four years ago, two children died in a similar fashion on the same day, sparking community outrage and a wave of investigations of Shelby County daycare centers and daycare safety reforms in Tennessee.

Among the reforms were specific regulations to prevent children from being left on vans.


Memphis Has Long History Of Daycare Van Deaths


June 25, 2003

Memphis, TN - Unfortunately Memphis has a "horrible history" of children dying in hot daycare vans. The death of a four-month-old in 1997 first prompted new laws --designed to save children.

Ironically, that death happened six years ago on this very night. On that hot summer day -- four-month-old Destiny Williams was rushed to LeBonheur Hospital where doctors tried to save her but it was too late. She died two days later June 25th 1997.

The baby girl was left in a day care van, with the windows rolled up for 4 hours. Sheriff's deputies say the temperature inside that van -- rose to 113 degrees. Two years later Destiny's mother pushed for better laws and liability hoping her child did not die in vain. Tomeka Williams said, "If you're taking care of children, you should have some type of coverage that shows you are responsible for children in case anything happens."

And sadly, it did happen again in July 1999, 2-year-old Brandon Mann is left behind in a van at a Whitehaven daycare on Millbranch. Employees found his body at 3:52 pm. Shockingly less than 30 minutes later on the very same day another baby, 22-month-old Darnecia Slater is found dead in a van at her daycare center on Chelsea. Her small lifeless body discovered inside the sweltering vehicle - the temperature? 108 degrees.

The deaths prompted state representative, Carol Chumney to push for laws to have at least two adults monitoring kids in each van. A law that will finally take effect next month in July. Chumney says, "The process is on the books where two people are suppose to check the van and they're also suppose to check the children inside the facility and account for the children, so if the rules are being followed there's no way a child can be left on the van." But Chumney says the challenge will be enforcing the laws. Chumney says, "The question is did they do their jobs, were there drugs involved? We don't know we've pushed for drug testing but the department delayed that."

And critics say all of these delays are now proving to be deadly with yet another Memphis family paying a horrible price.

It's happened again! Toddler dies after being left in daycare van


     A 2-year-old girl was found dead Wednesday afternoon inside a Memphis day care van, left strapped in her car seat for about eight hours on a 90-degree day.

     Amber Cox-Cody was apparently forgotten by workers at the Children's Rainbow Learning Center. She was discovered at about 3:30 p.m. by a driver who was preparing for an afternoon run.

     Late Wednesday, state officials requested that the center close voluntarily - or automatically have its license suspended - while they investigate. 

    "It appears she was left in the van all day," police Maj. Glenn Williams told The Commercial Appeal of Memphis. "It's hard to believe ... You'd think they'd be more careful."

     Deaths of young children aboard such vans in Memphis in recent years have led to statewide investigations into regulation of state-subsidized day care centers. Among reforms resulting from those probes were regulations to prevent children from being left on vans.

     "This is just mind-boggling," said state Rep. Carol Chumney, D-Memphis. "How on earth could it happen?"

      New laws require drivers and on-board monitors to keep written records of children in transportation vehicles, along with making head counts to make sure no one is forgotten.

     "You are talking about a lot of people dropping the ball," said Chumney, among lawmakers and officials who led the charge for reforms. No charges have been filed.

      Memphis meteorologist Bob Smerbeck estimated temperatures inside the van reached between 120-140 degrees on Wednesday.

      Two deaths occurred in Memphis on July 21, 1999, when two toddlers died of heatstroke when left in vans at different day care centers.

      A 1-year-old girl was rescued from a day care van the following month after being left alone for about an hour. 

      Less than a month after that, a 4-year-old boy climbed through the window of a day care van after he was left alone for three hours.

      In each of those incidents, authorities say the children were accidentally left behind on the vans after drivers delivered youngsters to centers.

      Last year, four children and the driver died when a day care van crashed into a highway overpass in Memphis. An investigation showed that the van's driver had a history of marijuana use, and a small amount of the drug was found on his body.

      The owner of the van and the owner of the day care center the driver worked for were charged in March with reckless homicide in those deaths.

      There are about 1,150 day care centers in Tennessee that transport children. In Shelby County alone, about 20,000 children are transported to 360 centers.

      About 30 children nationwide died in hot cars, not just day care vans, from June 2000 to July 2001, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

      Earlier this month, a 2-year-old died in Orange County, Fla., after being forgotten in a day care van.

      Chumney said the licensing process for day care centers must be addressed more forcefully. "You can draw some conclusions that centers are getting licenses who don't deserve to be in business," she said.