Mother of boy who died after hours in hot van sues day care

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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas mother whose 5-year-old son died after being left in a day care van for almost nine hours in hot weather is suing the facility.

In the civil lawsuit filed Thursday, Ashley Smith says Ascent Children's Health Services failed to provide adequate care for her son. The suit says the day care was "indifferent in the recruitment, hiring, training, supervision, discipline of employees," and showed a "callous disregard."

The $135 million suit seeks for Ascent to pay for medical and funeral expenses, attorneys' fees and punitive damages.

"Trying to take it one day at a time. It's hard for me," Smith said. "Every day I get up looking for him."

Smith said she wants the day care closed.

West Memphis police say Ascent's 15-passenger van picked up Christopher Gardner Jr. at 6:40 a.m. on June 12. He was later found dead by investigators sitting upright in the back seat of the van at 3:30 p.m.

Police said the boy freed himself from his car seat and had taken off his shirt and one shoe. They said the temperature inside the van reached 141 degrees.

"That poor boy suffered," Capt. Joe Baker of the West Memphis Police Department.

Investigators determined four employees were responsible for the boy's death.

Van driver Felicia Ann Phillips, 42; safety inspector Kendra Washington, 40; transportation supervisor Wanda Taylor, 43; and Pamela Lavette Robinson, 43, face felony manslaughter charges.

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