5-year-old boy found dead after being left in day care van

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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — A 5-year-old Arkansas boy died Monday after he was left in a day care van all day.

The boy may have been asleep when the van arrived at the day care early Monday. He never got off the van, which remained in the parking lot, police say.

Christopher Gardner Jr. was found dead in his booster seat hours later.

The van for Ascent child care center picked up the boy before 7 a.m. and was supposed to drop him off at the center. The day care’s staff found him dead inside when they came to load children in the van to go home after 3 p.m.

The Ascent child care center is a place that “provides quality outpatient and day treatment services to children and their families that are in need of mental health or developmental care,” the company’s website states.

The boy’s mother, who was too distraught to speak on camera, signed a sheet of paper around 6:30 a.m. indicating her son was picked up and on the van. He arrived at the facility around 7:15.

As the family searches for answers, they also want justice, said Carrie Smith, the boy’s great-grandmother.

“You can see that my great grandbaby suffered in that van,” Smith told WMC. “That wasn’t right.”

She described him as a sweet child. She said she would always be there when he got off the van at home.

Police said the temperature in the day care parking lot was 91 degrees Monday afternoon when authorities responded to the incident.

Police say there are safeguards against such an incident. Authorities will forward the case to the Crittenden County District Attorney for possible charges against multiple people.

Officials with the Arkansas Department of Human Services, which regulates day care centers in Arkansas, were also on scene investigating.

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