A Florida day care owner was arrested on child neglect charges on Wednesday after a baby girl died in a scorching hot van outside of the facility.
Police arrested 56-year-old Darryl Ewing, co-owner of the Ewing’s Love & Hope Preschool and Academy in Jacksonville, where an employee found the infant unconscious inside of blazing hot van, authorities said Wednesday evening.
The 4-month-old girl had been in the vehicle for nearly five hours, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Assistant Chief Brian Kee said at a news conference.
It’s believed she suffered a “heat-related injury,” Kee said. Her name was not released. No other children were hurt, Kee said, adding that interviews were ongoing.
The temperature reached 92 degrees in Jacksonville on Wednesday. The baby had been in a van outside the day care from about 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Kee said.
Investigators said Ewing was the driver and responsible for loading the children on and off the van.
“The suspect, Darryl Ewing, was the sole driver of the van the entire time. No other employees were on the transport van during the transit to the center,” the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Wednesday evening. “The suspect parked the van in front of the daycare and left the vehicle unattended with the victim still strapped in her car seat in the third row of the van.”
Officers said a day care worker made the harrowing discovery at around 1 p.m. when the child’s mother called to make after-school arrangements. The worker told her that the infant had never been checked in.
“Daycare employees went to the van and discovered the victim still strapped in her child seat unresponsive and called emergency services,” the sheriff’s office said. “Further investigative efforts revealed the suspect was responsible for maintaining a separate driver’s log documenting all children that are placed onto the van.”
“Interviews of other daycare center employees indicated it is the van driver’s responsibility to check and make sure children are offloaded from the van at the daycare center,” it added.
The driver’s log, which is separate from the daily log signed by parents, showed that Ewing had logged in two of the baby girl’s siblings, but not her.
ABC News’ call to the day care was not immediately returned.
The Department of Children and Families in Duvall County has begun the process of issuing an emergency suspension order to cease operations at the facility, the agency said in a statement. The facility has been licensed with DCF since 2016.
“We are all just beyond devastated,” Amber Rollins, director of the national nonprofit KidsAndCars.org, told ABC News on Wednesday.
The group is advocating for mandatory alarm technology in cars.
“We have to do more,” Rollins said. “This cannot continue to happen week after week, year after year when the solution is right at our fingertips.”
Hot car deaths reached a record level last year with at least 52 children killed, according to KidsAndCars.org.
Just this week, a 2-year-old boy was rescued after he was left in a hot car in Georgia. A baby died in a hot car in Indianapolis on Saturday, as well.