Family of 5-Year-Old Arkansas Boy Left in Overheated Van Mourns, as Officials Bring Charges

Authorities have charged four people in connection with the death of 5-year-old Christopher Gardner Jr., who was found dead in a hot van at his day care center in West Memphis, Ark. (Photo via WMC-TV)

Four people will be charged in connection with the death of Christopher Gardner Jr., a 5-year-old boy who died after being left inside an overheated day care van in West Memphis, Ark., located just across the Mississippi River from Memphis, Tenn., WREG-TV in Memphis reported.

Van driver Felicia Ann Phillips, van monitor Pamela Robinson, day care transportation supervisor Wanda Taylor and van safety inspector Kendra Washington all have been charged with manslaughter, the TV station reported Friday, June 16.

They are scheduled to appear in a Crittenden County court on Monday, according to the station.

At around 3:30 p.m. local time, Monday, June 12, Christopher was found unresponsive inside the van parked outside his day care facility, Ascent Children’s Health Services of West Memphis, which serves children with special needs and those needing physical therapy, according to news reports. Christopher had reportedly undergone two heart operations during his life and had attended the day care since age 1.

Investigators estimated he had been inside the van since boarding at around 6:40 a.m. that morning and arriving at the facility roughly 35 minutes later. He was found dead in a booster seat eight hours later.

The temperature reportedly reached 91 degrees and police told WREG the temperature inside the van could have climbed as high as 130 degrees.

“You can see that my great grandbaby suffered in that van,” Christopher’s great-grandmother Carrie Smith told Memphis station WMC-TV. “That wasn’t right.”

It’s unclear why Christopher was left alone inside the van or why no one noticed he was not inside the day care. Local police and the Arkansas Department of Human Services each have been investigating the death.

West Memphis Police Chief Donald Oaks told reporters that Christopher had been recorded as having been checked into the day care.

Ascent, the day care company, released the following statement to the press:

“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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