Left in van at day care, child dies


Posted on Friday, September 12, 2003


A child left inside a daycare van for several hours was pronounced dead Thursday after attempts to revive him failed, a North Little Rock Police Department spokesman said.


The unidentified boy, said to be at least 3 years old, was under the care of Smart Start Learning Center at 1802 Arkansas 161 North in North Little Rock, said Jim Scott, the police spokesman. "When they realized he was missing, they went looking and found him in the back of the van in a child-restraint seat," Scott said. Smart Start Director Page Parker could not be reached Thursday. A woman who answered the phone at the center said no one was available for comment.


The cause of death was undetermined Thursday afternoon, and authorities were not sure how long the child remained in the vehicle. Thursday’s high was 91, according to the National Weather Service.


An ambulance was sent to the center at 3:47 p.m. Medical personnel performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation before taking the child to Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock, where he died.

Investigators are questioning "all involved," Scott said. He did not know how many adults were in charge at the time the child was left in the van.


The state’s Child Care Licensing and Early Childhood Education Division was unaware of the death at 6:30 p.m. "Something as serious as this certainly should be reported immediately," said Julie Munsell, spokesman for the state Department of Human Services, which is responsible for the licensing division. A licensing specialist with the state contacted the center after hearing the news secondhand, but she was provided no details, Munsell said. "There wasn’t a director on hand, and the staff member said she couldn’t comment and hung up the phone," Munsell said. "Needless to say, there are a couple of things we’ll be looking at there."


Human Services Department investigators will visit the center early today, Munsell said, adding that state licensing records currently show Smart Start in good standing with no complaints or pending investigations.


Smart Start accepts children ranging in age from 1 month to 13 years old.


At least 37 children nationwide have died this year after being left alone in a vehicle, according to statistics collected by the San Francisco State University department of geosciences. Some deaths probably go unreported, experts say.


In 1998, the first year the numbers were collected, there were 28 recorded hyperthermia deaths of children left in cars. There were 31 in 1999, 28 in 2000, 34 in 2001 and 32 in 2002.


The death is not the first of its kind in Arkansas this year. In Springdale, Mary Christina Cordell was arrested on Aug. 18 on a charge of manslaughter in the death of her 3-year-old daughter, Brianna Cordell. An autopsy report shows Brianna died from hyperthermia, an elevated body temperature, in her mother’s Dodge Stratus, parked at an apartment complex parking lot.


Police measured the temperature inside a car parked next to Cordell’s at 126 degrees at 6 p.m. that day.