The family of a toddler who died after being left for hours on a childcare centre minibus have thanked the community and Cairns police for their support as they struggle to deal with their devastating loss.
The three-year-old boy was found dead inside the minibus that was parked outside the Goodstart Early Learning Centre in the southern Cairns suburb of Edmonton on Tuesday last week, a day on which temperatures hit 34 degrees in the city.
The centre’s manager and another worker faced court on Tuesday, charged with the manslaughter of the boy.
On Wednesday, 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”.
“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.”
Triple-0 call transcript
On Tuesday, the Cairns Magistrates Court was told the childcare centre’s manager and minibus driver Michael Glen Lewis, along with childcare worker Dionne Grills, 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. 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, 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.