Parents of boy found dead in hot SUV want law changed

 

The death of a toddler in a hot day-care center van last week should make state lawmakers and government leaders ashamed for failing to address this child-safety crisis, the child’s family said.

jbrown@MiamiHerald.com

Next week, 4-year-old Jordan Coleman would be in his classroom, finger-painting and learning how to write his name, along with other Pre-K students at Walker Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale.

But Jordan is dead.

Jordan, a bright little boy known as “the braided one,” and who loved to say “Hallelujah!” to just about everything, was found dead Aug. 1 in a scorching day-care center SUV, parked outside a Tamarac apartment complex. The driver of the vehicle transported Jordan and seven other children to the complex, allegedly because the operators of his Sunrise day-care center were trying to keep state inspectors from discovering they were over-capacity.

At a news conference announcing the filing of a wrongful death suit Friday, lawyers for Jordan’s mother, Fantasia Goldson, noted that suing the day-care center won’t prevent such tragedies from happening again.

“We don’t have the power to put someone out of business or to regulate the industry or bring about justice to those responsible,” said Stuart Grossman of Coral Gables. “It’s just unbelievable that you leave a child in a van and forget about him.”

He added that a simple $10 device that acts as an alarm could have saved Jordan’s life, but state legislators have failed to pass a bill proposed more than a year ago mandating the device for commercial day-care centers.

The law, introduced by state Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, followed the death of 2-year-old Haile Brockington, whose lifeless body was found strapped into her seat in a Ford Econoline parked for more than five hours at her Delray Beach day-care center in August 2010.

Jordan died Wednesday after workers for 3C’s Day Academy in Sunrise forgot that they had left him in the SUV, which they had driven to the Versailles Garden complex in Tamarac. The preschooler had been left in the vehicle for at least two hours and died of hyperthermia, Grossman said.

The facility, which had been the subject of several critical inspections by Broward’s day-care licensing office, has since been closed, and a criminal investigation is under way by the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney. No charges have been filed as of Friday.

“This is third child to die in less than two years due to sheer and outright neglect,” said Grossman’s partner, Andrew Yaffa, who represented Brockington’s family and the parents of 22-month Dominicue Andrews, who died after he was left in a hot day-care center van in Homestead last July.

“The state prosecutors’ offices that continue to see these problems refuse to hold those responsible accountable and I can tell you that unless and until somebody takes a very firm stand to put our children’s interests first, this problem is going to continue to repeat itself,” Yaffa said.

Jordan’s grandmother, Melanie James, said they were referred to the day-care center by other family members whose children attended the facility. Jordan had been at the center less than three weeks. He was registered to attend preschool at Walker Elementary next week, she said.

James, who wept throughout the news conference, said the family was never told that the children would be taken off-site, let alone to an apartment complex across town.

Grossman said the other children who did get off the bus were taken into an apartment, strictly for the purpose of avoiding citations from inspectors who were expected to visit the center that day.

Jordan’s mother struggled to speak, saying she has mixed emotions.

“It’s just tragic to come home and not see your son say “Hey mom,” and have his last kiss before he leaves.”

Sachs vowed Friday to reintroduce the bill if she gets re-elected to the state Senate this year.

The proposed legislation would require the alarms be installed in all commercial day-care vehicles transporting children. She said the insurance industry agreed to pay for the alarms, which sound when the vehicle’s ignition is turned off, forcing the driver to walk to the rear of the vehicle to deactivate the alarm.

If the device is ignored, an external alarm sounds to alert passersby.

Sachs said the Florida Child-Care Management Association, which represents commercial child-care centers, lobbied against the bill.

Jordan is the 16th child to die in an unattended hot car in the country this year, according to KidsAndCars.org, a Kansas advocacy group.

Jordan’s godfather, Caleb Jean, pastor of Devine Hope Restoration Ministry in Miami Gardens, said Jordan’s death should stir people to take action.

“We have animal activists who get crazy about a dog left in a van. I don’t hear an outcry over a child that’s left in a van. I don’t see people jumping up and down and picketing over a child,” he said.

“A 4-year-old left in a van is not a telephone you forget. It’s a human being.”

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