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QLD_CP_NEWS_GREATESTSHAVE_18FEB20

CEO responds to childcare bus death

The head of the Queensland early learning centre where a three-year-old boy died yesterday says she is "absolutely devastated" but "we obviously don't know what happened".

Mystery still surrounds the death of the young boy found dead on a minibus parked outside a school in Cairns.

The boy was found dead inside a childcare centre bus during a heatwave, leaving the driver in "shock and distress" and police working to find out "exactly what has happened".

It's believed the childcare centre he was being taken to was just down the road from the school.

 

 

The devastating find was made on a blue Goodstart Early Learning bus in the carpark outside Hambledon State School in the southern suburb of Edmonton at 3.15pm on Tuesday.

Julia Davison, the CEO of Goodstart Early Learning, this morning told Today her team was "still trying to come to terms with this".

"All of our 15,000 educators are devastated and shocked," she said.

"It is every family's worst nightmare that something might happen to their child and it is every educator's worst nightmare something might happen to a child in their care."

The discovery was made on the bus outside a state school. Picture: Brendan Radke
The discovery was made on the bus outside a state school. Picture: Brendan Radke

 

Ms Davison offered her deepest condolences to the family of the boy.

"Obviously we will do anything we possibly can to reach out and support the family of the young boy who tragically died yesterday. We have got counselling services on the ground to support other families and educators.

"Obviously there's the police investigation that has already commenced. There will be various other agencies who are involved in investigations. We have decided, as a precaution - this has been a very difficult decision for us to make - to not use our buses from later today.

"We want to be conservative, we want to actually understand and make sure that we have got every possible procedure in place, that all of our staff have received refresher training.

"We obviously don't know what happened in this particular incident but we want to be cautious but at the same time we're a not-for-profit that picks up and collects lots of vulnerable children who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to access early learning."

A police forensic officer inspects the van. Picture: Brendan Radke
A police forensic officer inspects the van. Picture: Brendan Radke

Queensland Police said in a statement on Tuesday night: "The boy was located deceased on a minibus parked out the front of a school on Stokes Street at 3.15pm.

"Cairns detectives from the Child Protection Investigation Unit are investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident."

The temperature reached 34C yesterday in Cairns.

A police spokesman told news.com.au the male driver of the bus, who discovered the young child, was taken to Cairns Base Hospital "suffering shock and distress".

At the scene yesterday, Detective Inspector Jason Smith said it was "early days" and "a number of factors could be at play here".

 

Nine reported the boy boarded the bus yesterday morning and was supposed to be dropped off at a local daycare centre but remained on the bus for all of Tuesday.

According to the ABC, police said he had been picked up from his house yesterday morning but would not confirm that he had been left in the vehicle throughout the day.

"We're just trying to work out exactly what has happened between now and when he should have been delivered to a daycare centre," Insp Smith said.

"The death of any child is an awful thing which is why it's so important for us to get to the bottom of this."

Emergency services were called during school pick-up hours. Picture: Nine News
Emergency services were called during school pick-up hours. Picture: Nine News

In a statement to news.com.au on Tuesday night, a spokeswoman for Goodstart Early Learning said the company was "devastated by the death of a child in our care in Cairns earlier today".

"We are working to support the entire centre team, our families and our children," she said.

"The matter is now a police investigation and we will be working with the police, Department of Education (childhood education and care), and Workplace Health and Safety.

"Our thoughts are very much with the family of the child at this time."

It has more than half a dozen childcare centres in the Cairns area around the primary school.

A report will be prepared for the coroner.

Police at the scene. Picture: Channel 9
Police at the scene. Picture: Channel 9