Scorching heat in Houston last week claimed the life of a 3-year-old boy who was somehow left in a day care van for an estimated four hours. Who is to blame has not been officially determined, but video may be available that could provide helpful details, police said.
The July 19 incident was the subject of a news briefing the next afternoon by Houston police officials, who described what happened. How hot was the actual temperature was a subject of debate, but police assessed it as a “record heat wave.” As Assistant Chief Bobby Dobbins pointed out, “as we all know, these things happen all too often. ... This is just one more incident where something that shouldn’t have happened, happened, and it ended tragically.”
The active case is still early in its investigation, he stressed, so few details will be released for now. However, he noted, “this is disturbing for all of us,” not just for the victim’s family, but also the first-responders, who have to go home to their own families after working a tragic case like this.
Dobbins reported that at about 10 a.m. the day before, a small group of young children in the van were transported from the day care center for an outing to a nearby city park, for finger painting and various outdoor activities. They arrived back at the facility between 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., and “after that, all of the children, it was assumed, were inside the day care center,” Dobbins explained.
The boy’s father arrived at the normal time of about 6 p.m. to pick up the child, but he and the daycare employees couldn't locate the boy. The day care workers reportedly found the victim on the bus about a half hour later. “They contacted an ambulance, and the ambulance was dispatched” at about 6:45 p.m. When the ambulance arrived on the scene, “constables at Precinct 1 were in the area,” and went to assist the paramedics, even though they didn’t know what the call was about.
At 6:56 p.m., the department received a call for assistance from the paramedics there, and other officers arrived within six minutes. Upon arrival, the “officers witnessed a child in heat exhaustion, and receiving care from the paramedics.” The child was then transported to the hospital, and at 7:45 p.m., the victim was pronounced deceased.
The Houston Police Department Special Victims Division is spearheading the investigation. The results will be shared with the district attorney, who is then expected to present a case to a grand jury, Dobbins indicated.
How could this death have happened, the reporters asked, as they pressed Dobbins for answers. “We will leave no stone unturned, and this will be a very detailed investigation,” he stressed. A lot of people will have to be interviewed, he added.
The bus driver is an employee of the day care facility, police officials confirmed. Background checks and licensing reviews will be conducted, they said. There are videos that police officials are still in the process of locating and collecting. “If there is anything the public has that could help us, we’d obviously take it,” investigator Sgt. Lee Donovan said.
“There’s a lot of work to be done” still, he noted. “All of the children were of day care age, but all mobile,” although all of their ages are still being confirmed, he told reporters. The facility’s policies and procedures will also be reviewed.
Although nobody has yet been charged or detained, criminal charges are possible. “So far, everybody is cooperating” in the investigation, the Sgt. noted. “Everybody involved in this is sad, and everybody is hurting,” he said, “so unfortunately, it is going to be a very long process for us, and for them.”
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