The boy was found dead after being left for hours on the Goodstart Early Learning Centre minibus. (ABC New: Marian Faa)
‘I’m going to jail’: Childcare manager’s triple-0 call revealed in court after boy found dead on bus
Shine Lawyers say it is not the first time Goodstart Early Learning has left a young child on a minibus in Queensland, revealing a 14-month-old girl was left for an hour in sweltering conditions on the Gold Coast two years ago.
- Shine Lawyers says Goodstart left a toddler on a minibus on the Gold Coast two years ago
- The firm says the early learning centre needs to do more to ensure the health and safety of children
- The toddler’s uncle says the family is looking out for one another “through a very difficult time”
A three-year-old boy was found dead inside a minibus that was parked outside Hambledon State School in the southern Cairns suburb of Edmonton on Tuesday last week, a day on which temperatures hit 34 degrees Celsius in the city.
The centre’s manager and another worker faced court yesterday charged with the manslaughter of the boy.
Goodstart Early Learning said the pair, who were initially stood down, have since been sacked.
Senior Associate at Shine Lawyers in Cairns, Susan Gandini, said it had represented a mother whose baby daughter was also left on a Goodstart minibus.
“Unfortunately, this is not the first time Goodstart Early Learning has failed a child in its care,” she said.
“Shine Lawyers has previously represented a mother whose then 14-month-old daughter was left on a minibus at a Goodstart facility on the Gold Coast two years ago.
“Thankfully, despite enduring sweltering conditions for an hour, she survived.”
Police outside Hambledon State School at Edmonton last Tuesday, where the minibus was parked. (ABC News: Mark Rigby)
Ms Gandini said the early learning centre said it would implement reforms after the incident.
“Goodstart promised to review its policies and procedures to ensure children are marked on a roll when they hop on and off its minibuses,” she said.
“The organisation also said its drivers would walk through the bus at the end of each journey to ensure no child had been left behind.
“This latest tragedy suggests Goodstart’s policies and procedures are still failing children and more needs to urgently be done to guarantee their health and safety.
“The organisation has announced yet another review of its policies and procedures but how can parents trust Goodstart to look after their kids given its poor track record?”
In a statement, Goodstart Early Learning said after the incident on the Gold Coast, a thorough review was conducted and refresher training was rolled out for all staff.
“We conducted a thorough review of our policy, procedures and staff training … which included the bus driver and the passenger must complete all checks in line with our policies,” a spokeswoman said.
“Children are marked on a roll when they board, and a roll call is conducted at the end of each journey.
“Our drivers are also expected to walk through the bus and check that it is empty.
“We are a company committed to continuous improvement.”
ABC understands staff at the Cairns centre in Edmonton had undergone bus safety training within recent weeks.
Family reveal heartbreak
Meanwhile, the family of the toddler who died last week have thanked the community and Cairns police for their support as they struggle to deal with their devastating loss.
Today, with the assistance of Cairns police, the boy’s uncle, Nick, delivered a statement on behalf of the family, saying they were left with “the difficult task of trying to come to terms with his loss”.
Uncle Nick says the family are grateful for the love and support of the local community. (ABC News: Kristy Sexton-McGrath)
“At present, our families are working through a very difficult time in our lives by supporting, encouraging and looking out for each other,” Nick said.
“For cultural reasons I won’t say the boy’s name, but he was a three-year-old boy who was deeply connected to his siblings, his peers and older children, and he played a big part in a very close-knit family.
“For us as a family this is an unprecedented incident and consequently it’s affected the larger community.
“That’s been demonstrated by the support our families have received and we’d like to thank everyone for their help, their love and their prayers, so from our family a big thank you.
“From an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective, and culturally speaking, our family is now in sorry business.
“We’d also like to thank Detective Aaron Thomas and Detective Senior Sergeant Mick Gooiker and the QPS for their support and guidance — thank you for that.”
Triple-0 call transcript
Yesterday, the Cairns Magistrates Court was told the childcare centre’s manager Michael Glen Lewis, along with childcare worker Dionne Grills, who drove the bus that day, allegedly forgot to pick up the boy from home, and went back for him.
The toddler was the only child on the bus when the pair eventually brought him to the centre and he was sitting two seats behind the driver for the journey.
But neither Mr Lewis nor Ms Grills removed him from the bus when they arrived.
In court the police prosecutor, Senior Sergeant Maynard Marcum, read the transcript of Michael Glen Lewis’s phone call to triple-0, in which he admitted the boy was left on the bus all day.
“I’ve just opened up the bus and he’s here, dead,” Mr Lewis said.
“I’m going to jail, this is my fault.”
Senior Sergeant Marcum said it appeared Mr Lewis failed to manually sign in the victim when the child got on the bus.
But the boy was signed in on the centre’s computer system as being present, despite never arriving.
“This is an act of criminal negligence, appalling in its nature,” Senior Sergeant Marcum said.
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