A daycare employee has been arrested over the death of a one-year-old child who was left in a hot car for hours in Omaha, Nebraska.
Deputies responded to the Kidz of the Future Child Development Center on Monday evening after an employee at the daycare made a call about an unresponsive child. The minor, identified by her parents as Ra’Miyah Worthington, was taken to Nebraska Medical Center but was declared dead shortly after.
Ra’Miyah had been inside a van owned by the daycare for about five to six hours as temperatures in the city reached 96 degrees, according to court records — the little girl’s body temperature was 109 degrees when she arrived at the hospital, KETV reports.
Now, the 62-year-old van driver, Ryan Williams, is facing charges of child abuse by neglect resulting in death. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has also shut down the daycare centre.
Law enforcement told KETV Mr Williams had said during an interview with detectives that nine children were in the van on Monday. He claimed to have become distracted by a child “who was not wanting to get out of the van and go inside”.
The child eventually exited the van when another staff member at the centre intervened. The driver reportedly admitted that although he usually checks that the van is completely empty, he didn’t on Monday.
“The protection and well-being of children is of the highest priority by the Department of Health and Human Services, and we are working with law enforcement as they investigate this tragic death. In addition, an emergency order has been put in place temporarily closing the facility until further investigations can take place,” DHHS told 6 News in a statement.
Ra’Miyah’s mother Sina Johnson also told the outlet that while court documents estimated her daughter had been in the van for up to six hours, she believed Ra’Miyah had spent longer trapped in the car.
“It had to be around eight in the morning — eight in the morning. We didn’t get a call until 3pm. My daughter could have been in there eight, seven hours, no windows down, no nothing. Screaming. Crying,” Ms Johnson said. “Nobody heard anything. Everybody’s in this building while she’s literally outside in the parking lot.”
Mr Williams appeared in court on Wednesday. He’s being held on $50,000 bond. Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said during the hearing that the child’s death had been “horrific and unimaginable.”
“What that child was going through the last moments of their life, as they struggled to, I’m sure, try to get out of that car, out of the suffocating heat that they were in. So it’s very sad. It’s extremely sad,” Mr Kleine said, per KETV.
Ra’Miyah was the youngest of six siblings and was described by her family as being a smiley child who loved dancing.
“So now my 6-year-old is going to be asking me, ‘Mom is this baby OK? Is the baby OK? It’s unimaginable that anybody left a baby in a car,” Ms Johnson told 6 News. “I have no sympathy for anybody who forg[ets] a baby in a car. You don’t forget your phone. You don’t forget your purse.”
Mr Williams is scheduled to appear in court again on 26 September.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Children are three to five times more vulnerable to having their body temperature increase while inside a car.
An infant’s body temperature can increase by 20 degrees while inside a car in just 10 minutes.
The agency estimates that an average of 40 children die each year of heatstrokes caused by them being trapped in a hot car.