3-year-old Nevaeh Austin was taken to hospital in a critical condition on Wednesday after being forgotten and left on board a hot childcare bus for several hours according to Capricornia Police District Detective Inspector Darrin Shadlow.
The child was left in the vehicle for around six hours as temperatures around Rockhampton reached close to 30 degrees Celsius during the course of the day.
It is believed the child was seated in the second row of the bus that morning and was the only child on board apart from the bus driver and one other person, who allegedly forgot she was there.
Nevaeh was discovered by childcare staff around 3pm on Wednesday afternoon just before the childcare centre’s after-school pickup service. Emergency services were called
The little girl was still strapped into her seat and was found semiconscious and unresponsive. She was rushed to Rockhampton Hospital in a critical condition and is now fighting for her life.
Nevaeh’s father Shane Austin said that the little girl had been picked up from home by the bus at 9am that morning to be taken to Le Smileys Early Learning Centre on Lucas Street in Gracemere, near Rockhampton. Mr Austin said that his daughter had since been transferred to a Brisbane hospital where she was suffering from kidney failure and was receiving a deep brain scan.
“She’s the most loudest little girl they tell me… she’s the heart of the day-care,” said Mr Austin.
On Thursday morning, Le Smileys Early Learning Centre was closed as police continue to undertake their investigations. The owner, Michelle O’Rourke made the snap decision in response to the tragedy. She stated that they would be stopping their transportation services in light of the incident, according to a report in the Courier Mail.
“I apologise to families for the inconvenience however, Le Smileys Early Learning Centre will no longer be providing transportation in any form, from this point forward,” Ms O’Rourke said to parents.
According to Detective Inspector Shadlow, the day-care centre is seeking legal advice. When talking to the media about the issue, he stated that they were “co-operating to a degree,” while investigations into the incident continue. “We will be looking at every person who is culpable in this matter,” the Detective Inspector said.
A similar situation occurred in Cairns in February 2020 when 3-year-old Malik ‘Meeky’ Namok-Malamoo died after he was left on a childcare minibus by staff for more than six hours in hot temperatures.
The Edmonton Goodstart Early Learning Centre was fined $71,000 and the bus driver Michael Glen Lewis, who discovered the child, was sentenced to six years jail time after he was charged and convicted of manslaughter.
On Thursday morning, Malik’s mother Muriel Namok shared her anger on Sunrise. She said that the situation repeating itself made her ‘sick to her stomach.’
The law was changed in October 2020 to ensure that all educators and child transportation providers must conduct risk assessments and adhere to policies to protect children and ensure that all children are accounted for.
Assistant Minister and local MP of Keppel, Brittany Lauga said, “it shouldn’t have happened!”
According to Detective Inspector Shadlow, the girl’s condition had ‘stabilised since Wednesday night.