DELRAY BEACH, Fla. (CN) – A 2-year-old girl spent a summer day dying of heat stroke in the back of a van after a Delray Beach daycare center forgot to bring her in, the girl’s mother claims in Palm Beach County Court. The mom says it’s not the first time that Katie’s Kids Learning Center lost track of a child, and that its lax supervision culminated in her daughter Haile’s death.
Katie’s Kids left Haile Brockington alone in the van for more than six hours in 90-degree heat while her two baby sisters played inside, her family’s attorney, Andrew Yaffa, told Courthouse News in an interview.
In her wrongful death complaint in Palm Beach County Court, Haile’s mother, Nelder Lester, said, “There were … prior incidents when children both on the bus as well as at the school in the past had been forgotten.”
Lester sued Katie’s Kids and its driver, Amanda Inman.
Yaffa added that the daycare center routinely failed to maintain the state-required transportation logs meant to prevent such mistakes.
On the morning of Aug. 5, the carelessness turned to tragedy, Yaffa said.
Katie’s Kids’ driver, 31-year-old Inman, did not keep a log of the children in her van, and when she took them into the daycare center, she brought Lester’s two other toddlers but mistakenly left Haile, Yaffa told Courthouse News.
Lester says her “shy and quiet” daughter was too young to unbuckle herself from her car seat, and that no one noticed her trapped in the van just outside Katie’s Kids.
Haile was found dead at the end of the day, Yaffa said.
“CPR was of no use because Haile had already expired … on account of the extreme heat within the van,” the complaint states. “Haile’s mother was not called by anyone from defendant Katie’s Kids. She had to learn the terrible news from the police that her daughter had died inside the daycare center’s van.”
Yaffa said in a statement: “The only solace, if you can call it that, that [the] parents have is the hope that this baby fell asleep … as she baked to death in that van.”
Police records confirm that the registered owners of Katie’s Kids, Kathryn Muhammad and Barbara Dilthey, have been investigated for negligence at one of their other daycare centers, the Wexford Academy.
In July 2008, another young girl allegedly was abandoned on a Wexford Academy bus after a field trip, City of Margate police records show. The records state that when officers arrived, the academy was unable to produce an accurate transportation log.
The Department of Children and Family Services cited the academy for failing to maintain the state’s minimum teacher-student ratio, but no further action was taken, according to the investigating officer.
The officer wrote in his report that none of the Wexford Academy’s teachers admitted wrongdoing.
“Even if the teachers admitted to the child being left on the bus, the child suffered no injuries, and it would have been an accident,” the officer wrote. “This case is cleared.”
Katie’s Kids’ Delray Beach location has reopened since Haile’s death, pending an investigation by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.