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Mother of boy who died after hours in hot van sues daycare

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. – An Arkansas mother whose 5-year-old son died after being left in a daycare van for almost nine hours in hot weather is suing the facility.

In the civil lawsuit filed Thursday, Ashley Smith says Ascent Children’s Health Services failed to provide adequate care for her son. The suit says the daycare was “indifferent in the recruitment, hiring, training, supervision, discipline of employees,” and showed a “callous disregard.”

Smith says she wants the daycare closed.

West Memphis police say Ascent’s 15-passenger van picked up Christopher Gardner Jr. at 6:40 a.m. on June 12. He was found dead in the van at 3:30 p.m.

The boy was still sitting on his booster seat and had removed his socks, shoes and shirt, West Memphis Police Captain Joe Baker said.

Police say the temperature inside the van reached 141 degrees.

“They need to explain why and how they let this happen to my child,” Smith told WMC.

The van’s driver, Felicia Ann Phillips, and three other employees – Pamela Lavette Robinson, Kendra Washington, and Wanda Taylor – were fired and face felony manslaughter charges in the boy’s death.