A Chapel Hill daycare worker has been fired after leaving a 2-year-old girl on a bus for an unknown amount of time Tuesday.
The child, Karah Evans, was returned to her mother, Kimberly Cates, disheveled, dehydrated and in new clothing by the owner of Operation New Life Child Development Center in Chapel Hill and his assistant about 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, Cates said.
“(The owner) sat down across from me and Karah and told me she was left on the daycare bus,” Cates said Thursday.
She asked how long she had been left there.
She said the answer was “most of the day.”
The high temperature in Chapel Hill on Tuesday was 99 degrees.
Operation New Life released a statement through attorney Matthew Suczynski on Wednesday admitting an “incident” had occurred. It said the employee had been fired.
“The individual responsible for the incident failed to perform her duties and avoided several safety checks built into company policies to ensure the safety of the children,” it said. “The administration has addressed the breakdown in policy by implementing a new reforms policy that will require more than one person to be responsible for a specific duty and strengthen the safeguards involved to ensure that nothing like this ever happened again.”
Cates said the owner later told her Karah had been left on the bus only “for 15-30 minutes,” changing his statement when she requested a definite time estimate to give doctors. A police report filed at 6:42 p.m. Tuesday says Karah was left on the bus unattended for “several hours.”
Cates said upon discovering her in the bus Operation New Life employees tried to give Kayla ice water and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – which she threw up.
According to UNC Trauma Care documents written for the Safe Kids program, heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children. A car can heat up by 19 degrees in 10 minutes. Young children’s bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s, and major organs begin to shut down once their internal temperature reaches 104 degrees.
Cates said Karah was treated Tuesday night for dehydration and still has some bruising, possibly caused by her struggle against car seat straps. She is home and in good condition now.
“I’ve really been blessed,” Cates said.
Chapel Hill police are investigating.