Broward County

Daycare hit with slew of violations after death of 2-year-old in sweltering van

The driver of the daycare van in which 2-year-old Noah Sneed died after being left for five hours in the sweltering heat didn’t follow protocols when she turned off a safety alarm before letting the children out of the vehicle, a report released Monday shows.

The alarm is not supposed to be turned off before unloading since its purpose is to wail if a child has been left inside.

And that wasn’t the only violation, according to the report compiled by Broward’s Child Care Licensing and Enforcement section. There was no attendance log taken on the van. Noah wasn’t in a car seat as required by law, the report added. Additionally, no attendance was taken when the children arrived at Ceressa’s Day Care & Preschool in Oakland Park. Noah was left alone in the van for more than five hours.

A photo of Noah Sneed is held during a gathering to honor his life with a candlelight memorial in front of Ceressa’s Daycare & Preschool, Tuesday, July 30, 2019. Michael Laughlin South Florida Sun Sentinel

While the center was slapped with five Class 1 violations — the highest level — no staff members have been charged in connection with the boy’s death. The Broward Sheriff’s Office is, however, treating the case as a manslaughter investigation.

Daycare owner Lakeila Harris voluntarily surrendered the daycare’s license on Monday, said the agency’s coordinator, Tracy Graham. The center has been closed since Noah was found dead July 29.

Meanwhile, Noah’s family says someone has to be held accountable.

“They need to pay for what was done,” said Teresa Brown, 51, Noah’s great aunt, who added that before the fatal incident the family had no problems with the center. “They need to pay for this negligence.”

She had some more questions for investigators: “Was the alarm ever on? Was it ever used? That is the question.”

On July 29, Noah was picked up at 9:30 a.m. and put in a seat secured with a seat belt, according to the report, which does not name the driver. Noah was not found until 3 p.m. by a staffer. By that time he was dead.

“During the course of a complaint investigation related to the death of a child at this facility it was determined that the child was not being transported in a federally approved child safety seat as required for children 1 through 3 years of age,” the investigator wrote in the report. “The child was placed in the seat and was secured by a seat belt.”

A 2-year-old was found dead in a van outside Ceressa’s Day Care & Preschool in Oakland Park, Florida, on Monday, July 29, 2019. Amy Beth Bennett South Florida Sun Sentinel

Noah’s mom, Chanese Sneed, said Wednesday she did strap Noah into a child car seat when he was picked up at 9 a.m. She said she didn’t understand how Noah ended up not in the child’s seat, but in a regular seat, secured only by a seat belt.

It was also not clear how many other children were picked up and brought to the center at 3140 NW 21st Ave. That was another violation — there was no log of the children being transported. During an interview, the driver “admitted that the transportation log was not completed,” according to the report.

When the driver arrived at the center, she walked to the back of the Ford E-350 Super Duty Van to turn off the safety alarm before letting the children out.

A county ordinance that went into effect in July 2013 requires all vehicles designed to carry six or more passengers to have a safety alarm device installed. The alarm must sound until the driver opens the back door or side and can turn it off after checking the back seats for children

While the investigator could not determine if there was a working alarm because the van was taken for evidence, the driver told an investigator that she got out of the van and “walked around the outside of the vehicle to the back where she turned off the child safety alarm.”

“The driver then walked to the passenger side of the vehicle and allowed the children to exit the vehicle,” the investigator wrote. “The driver did not follow the correct procedures for operating the alarm on the vehicle as it states that driver or a staff member must physically inspect each seat before turning off the alarm.”

Another problem, according to the report: On that particular day no one took attendance in the center. An investigator was told that the school’s director, who usually kept the attendance, was not there at 9:30 a.m. when the van arrived.

Lakiela Harris and Angela Elouido — listed in state corporate records as officers/directors of the center — did not return calls Wednesday. Two other officers/directors, Linda Harris (listed as the registered agent) and Tammorah Jackson, could not be reached. All four listed a Lauderhill address in the state records.

Noah’s mom said she is still trying to figure out why her son was left alone for so long.

“Imagine waiting for your baby to come home,” she said. “And then he never comes home.”