(ABC)– A 3-year-old boy was found dead in a van outside a child care center in Orlando after a day care worker allegedly forgot the child was in there, leaving him in the van for nearly 12 hours, police said.
At about 8:30 p.m. Monday, Orlando police received a call about child neglect at Little Miracles Academy, police said, and responding officers found 3-year-old Myles Hill unresponsive inside a vehicle in the lot. The fire department responded and pronounced Myles dead, police said.
“Myles would have turned 4 years old on Aug. 22,” Orlando Police Chief John Mina said at a news conference this morning. “This is an absolute tragedy which could have been prevented.”
The preliminary investigation reveals that on Monday morning a day care worker picked up Myles and other children at the initial Little Miracles Academy location to take them to another Little Miracles Academy facility, Mina said.
The day care driver then returned to the initial day care center and didn’t realize Myles was still in the van, police said. Later that evening, when Myles was supposed to be dropped off at his grandmother’s house, his grandmother called the police and a missing child investigation was launched, police said.
The grandmother also called the day care center and a worker checked the van and found Myles on the floor in the backseat of the vehicle, police said. A day care center worker then called 911, police said.
Mina said police believe Myles was in the hot van all day long, since 9 a.m. Temperatures that day reached 93 degrees Fahrenheit.
Authorities are awaiting autopsy results, but police suspect the boy’s death was heat-related, Mina said.
Family, friends and members of the community attended a prayer vigil in Orlando to mourn the child’s death. Flowers and candles were placed at a makeshift memorial for the boy.
During the vigil, the child’s grandfather Corey Esters said that one of the hardest parts of the ordeal was knowing that his grandchild suffered, adding that the center should be shut down.
Dozens of balloons were then simultaneously released into the sky in remembrance of Myles.
If the heat-related death is confirmed, Myles would be the 32nd child to die in a hot car this year — the fifth in Florida, Mina said.
The chief today pleaded “with every single parent, caregiver, baby sitter … to please ensure that we are checking our vehicles for our kids. It just takes a minute. And I know we’re all distracted with cellphones … but you got to do something … so that tragedies like this can be avoided.”
The day care worker could potentially face criminal charges, Mina said, adding that the worker has been very cooperative and is “obviously extremely distraught.” Mina said the day care worker admitted to not doing a headcount when the children were dropped off. Mina did not say what the potential charges could be.
The Department of Children and Families is investigating the day care center, Mina said.
The Little Miracles Academy could not immediately be reached for comment.