4-year-old Milwaukee girl left in van overnight after vehicle towed to city lot

MILWAUKEE – A Milwaukee family is speaking out after city workers towed a van with a 4-year-old girl inside and left it in a lot overnight amid frigid temperatures, according to WITI.

Milwaukee police stopped the minivan near 39th and Forest Home Avenue around 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday and arrested the driver of the minivan – who they suspected was intoxicated.

Officers took custody of a 10-month-old child, but apparently didn't notice the 4-year-old before the vehicle was towed to the Department of Public Works Tow Lot.

Around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, officials said they found the girl crying inside the minivan. An officer called in the fire department and emergency personnel evaluated the girl. Officials said she seemed to be "OK" but was taken to an area hospital for a more thorough review.

The minivan was towed to the city lot, where it received another quick inspection. DPW officials said when a vehicle comes to the city's tow lot, it is usually on a flatbed truck and vehicle information is taken and a walk-around with a flashlight is done.

"This is something that none of us would like to have happen to any of our children," said Jeff Polenske, City of Milwaukee DPW engineer. "As a father of three, this is something that -- very upsetting to me personally and certainly upsetting to all that were involved with this."

Family members said the child was sleeping in the back seat the whole time.

"I'm frustrated right now because I'm trying to figure out why the whole van wasn't searched," said Dynasty Davis, the girl's great aunt. "She's in good spirits, coloring, eating good, being a child."

Davis said her niece is strong to survive the freezing overnight temperatures.

"I couldn't even understand myself lasting that long. All those hours," said Davis.

The National Weather Service reported temperatures at Mitchell International Airport were around 25 degrees around midnight -- with a wind chill of 14 degrees. The temperature dropped to as low as 19 degrees with a wind chill of five degrees around 7 a.m. When the girl was found, the temperature had edged up to 22 degrees with a wind chill of nine degrees.

"Whatever it is that we can do we will be doing, definitely, to make sure there is not a person in a vehicle we are parking in our tow lot," said Polenske.

Officials said obviously this should not have happened -- and they want to make sure it never happens again. They will be doing a review of their processes.

Milwaukee police had not yet returned WITI's requests for comment as of Tuesday evening.