Lawsuit filed after 5-year-old dies in day care van


Christopher Gardner, Jr./ Family Photo

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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — A lawsuit has been filed following the death of a 5-year-old who was left alone in a day care van.

More information is scheduled to be released during a news conference Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m.

Four Ascent Children’s Health Services employees, Kendra Washington, Pamela Lavette Robinson, Felicia Ann Phillips and Wanda Taylor, were all charged with manslaughter in the death of Christopher Gardner Jr. after they failed to perform routine checks that would have prevented the incident.

That morning, little Christopher reportedly got on the bus around 6:40 a.m.

It arrived at Ascent Children’s Heath Services approximately 30 minutes after that.

Employees said they checked the bus that day, but during a news conference on Friday, police said based on their investigation, there is no way they could have checked the bus and not seen the child from where he was.

The workers were supposed to do a walk-through of the van to make sure it was empty and then hit a safety button in the back, but police said the workers instead opened the back door from the outside and hit the safety button without walking through the inside.

Police said one of the woman, Wanda Taylor, also admitted to checking Christopher into the classroom even though he didn’t go inside.

Eight hours later, he was discovered unresponsive inside the van. The van had moved a total of three times before that discovery.

Ascent issued the following statement:

There are simply no words to express the overwhelming sadness we feel at the death of this child. We are heartbroken and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family. Ascent will continue to fully cooperate with the authorities and state agencies as they investigate this tragic incident. Our West Memphis clinic will remain closed for the rest of the week.

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