Christopher Gardner Jr. died after being left in a daycare van all day. The child was only 5-years-old, and so far, Arkansas police have not charged anyone. Now, the boy’s family is speaking out about their devastating loss. They are seeking answers as to how this could happen, and they want justice.
On June 12, Ascent Children’s Health Services picked up the boy at 6:40 a.m. Once the van pulled into the daycare at approximately 7:20 a.m., children piled out, and each one was signed into the center, including Christopher. However, in reality, the boy was not inside the daycare center but still in the van, according to CNN.
During the course of the day in West Memphis, the temperature soared to 91 degrees. As people know, the temperatures inside of a vehicle are much hotter. Some websites estimate that the inside of the van could have reached up to 141 degrees.
At 3:30 p.m., daycare workers opened the van to take the children home, and that is when Gardner’s lifeless body was found. He had been left there in the sweltering heat and all alone for eight hours.
The family has a lot of questions and, understandably, want justice. Why was Christopher Gardner Jr. signed into the center when he never stepped foot in the building that day? If the center’s protocol is to check the vans three times a day, why was that not followed? Most childcare centers do attendance or, at the very least, “head counts” several times a day. Did it not occur to them there was one child missing? With two adults riding in the van that morning, why did neither of them do one final check to make sure everyone was out of the vehicle?
Gardner’s mother was too distraught to speak with reporters. However, Christopher’s grandmother, Carrie Smith, spoke about the tragic and preventable death.
“You can see that my great grandbaby suffered in that van. That wasn’t right.”
So far, no arrests have been made and nobody has been charged with a crime. However, that might change in the next few weeks. Authorities said that the case is being forwarded to the Crittenden County District Attorney. Several people could face charges related to the death of Christopher Gardner Jr. There is also an investigation by the Arkansas Department of Human Services, the government agency that regulates daycare centers.
In the past, Ascent Children’s Health Services has received three minor violations. However, none of them were related to transportation.
According to WMC Action News, Carrie Smith brought up the fact that Christopher was signed into the center as if he had physically walked in. It is not yet known why Gardner was listed as being present in the daycare center when he never stepped out of the van.
“I’m very upset about it. They didn’t look and they can’t tell me they looked. They didn’t.”
Christopher Gardner Jr. had attended Ascent Children’s Health Services since he was 1. He underwent two heart surgeries and was signed up at the center for his developmental issues. Reporters tried to talk to some of the daycare workers. However, they would not comment. Some even sped away from the childcare facility with jackets over their heads.
WMC Action News posted an update on this story. Four daycare workers have been fired and the CEO of Ascent Children’s Health Services offered to pay for Christopher’s funeral expenses. Although the boy’s family appreciates the offer, they have declined. The Gardner family doesn’t want money, they want justice.
“Justice still got to be done. It not done yet. They go home to they kids. My daughter can’t come home to her son and I can’t come home to my grandbaby because he gone.”
In a statement, it was confirmed that the daycare workers did not follow policies and procedures, which resulted in Christopher’s death.
Daycare centers and schools all have procedures in place to prevent incidents like this one. An innocent 5-year-old boy is dead and the family wants justice. Only time will tell if anyone will pay the price for Christopher Gardner Jr.’s tragic and preventable death.
[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]