6-year-old left alone in hot YWCA bus, employee terminated

Updated: Aug. 9, 2019 at 3:59 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A Wilmington mother is thankful her youngest son is alive after he was left alone in an after-school care bus in the hot summer sun Tuesday.

Dominique Haynes said her son, a 6-year-old Snipes Academy student, fell asleep on a bus ride from his school to the YWCA after-school care location at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.

Her son is one of multiple students who take the trip to the facility, but the driver didn’t notice he never exited the bus.

When the boy awoke, sometime around 4:30 p.m., he was trapped inside the parked bus after the driver had failed to notice him sleeping in the vehicle and locked the vehicle for the day.

Haynes says the child began frantically trying to get out of the bus, and was discovered by a nearby teacher who helped him escape and then took him inside.

She said she was not notified about her child’s situation until she was about to pick him up around 5 p.m., when the staff called her to inform her he was not at the church.

Instead of allowing YWCA staff to transport him, Haynes said she immediately drove to the main location on South College Road to pick him up, and then took him to the emergency room.

Other than a few minor abrasions, the child was determined to have no adverse effects as a result of being in the vehicle for at least 40 minutes, but Haynes said the experience has left both the child and her rattled.

“As a mom it hurts, it hurts so bad, you don’t want to ever think that anything going it’s going to happen to your kids,” she said. “It’s traumatizing, just thinking about it, just thinking about him in that situation.”

While obviously larger than a personal vehicle, New Hanover County Schools transportation director Ken Nance said buses still heat up in the sun, and that a child left inside one would be in just as much danger as one left in any other type of vehicle.

According to the National Weather Service, it was 87 degrees Fahrenheit at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Inside a typical car at that temperature, it can get as hot as 124 degrees inside in just 30 minutes.

YWCA of the Lower Cape Fear CEO Charrise Hart confirmed in a statement that the child had been left unattended in the vehicle, and the employee involved who failed to follow the center’s policies has been terminated.

She released the following statement:

“The YWCA’s mission is to touch lives and build better futures for women and children through advocacy and services that foster economic independence, wellness and equal opportunities. In pursuit of our mission we provide daycare and child care. Policies and procedures, aligned with federal and state laws, are in place to prevent any incidents at the facility. On August 6, an unfortunate incident did occur and a child was left on the bus for a very short period of time. Thankfully, no harm came to the child involved in the incident. We regret that the incident occurred and wish the child and his family well. Moreover, the individuals who failed to follow policies and procedures were terminated and are no longer employees of the YWCA. We will continue to strive to improve the quality of the services we provide and to enrich the lives of women and children.”

Charrise Hart, CEO, YWCA Lower Cape Fear

According to North Carolina state law, drivers transporting children to and from childcare centers are required to follow certain protocols to maintain safety.

The state’s policy reads: “For routine transport of children to and from the center, staff must have a list of the children being transported. Staff members must use the list to check attendance as children board the vehicle and as they depart the vehicle. A list of all children being transported must be available at the center."

Haynes alleges that did not happen, and that the staff did not notice her son was missing.

She said she has removed all of her children from the facility, and does not plan to return.

“You’re putting your trust and your livelihood and everything and your kids life in their hands, and you would think that they would be safe in after-school care or a day care facility, but when things happen like this it just breaks your trust,” she said.

WECT contacted the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, which licenses child care centers, including the YWCA.

A spokesperson said the agency is aware of the incident, and evaluating what to do next, but they could not comment on any ongoing or possible investigation.

In February 2018, DHHS took out an administrative action against the YWCA facility because of an incident involving three children who were playing on a trailer unattended, one of whom was injured.

Visits by DHHS this year have also resulted in noted violations, including concerns over student-teacher ratios.

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