Fla. day care shut down after boy dies in hot van
Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll said Little Miracle Academy will remain closed until it is determined safe to return
By David Harris
The state issued an emergency suspension order Wednesday that shut down both locations of the Little Miracles Academy day care where a 3-year-old boy died in a hot van Monday.
According to Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll, the Orlando centers will remain closed until DCF “determines it is safe for [children] to return.”
Carroll said the driver of the van in which Myles Hill was found Monday night was not on the day-care franchise’s roster of approved drivers.
Carroll said previous violations and the child’s death led to the order to shut down the day-care business co-owned by Audrey and Bryant Thornton.
“We will continue to aggressively act to keep kids safe and will hold anyone accountable who doesn’t follow the law,” Carroll said.
After the facility was cited for transportation violations in July, Carroll said DCF provided counseling on the appropriate way to keep transportation documents, and the owner acknowledged the guidelines.
Earlier Wednesday, Audrey Thornton begged Myles’ family for forgiveness during a news conference at her attorney Robert Nesmith’s office in downtown Orlando.
She also said she was going to fight to keep her business open.
“I’m so sorry,” Thornton said. “I don’t want y’all to be upset with me. I loved Myles. I took care of him since he was a baby.”
Thornton was crying, her voice cracking as she spoke in front of reporters.
Thornton and her lawyer declined to answer questions about how Myles was left in a hot van for nearly 12 hours in the parking lot of Little Miracles Academy, citing an ongoing investigation.
Myles was found dead on the floor in the back seat Monday night after being left behind by a day-care worker in the morning.
The driver picked up Myles and other children Monday morning and took some to the day-care center’s Colonial Drive facility before parking the van at the Plymouth Avenue location.
The driver, who has not been named, admitted not doing a head count, Orlando police said. Charges are pending against her.
Thornton said she wanted to keep operating her business.
“I’m a fighter,” she said. “Anyone that knows me knows I’m going to fight for what’s mine. I’m going to fight to keep it open. I’m not going to give it up like that. It was a mistake.”
Thornton said she had just come home Monday night when she received the call about what happened.
“I was just hurt,” she said. “It was devastated knowing this could happen.”
Bryant Thornton was not at the news conference.
But Myles’ great-aunt Barbara Livingston said, “Sorry is not gonna cut it,” and she wants to see the driver and Thornton charged.
“It’s pitiful,” she said. “They tell you don’t leave your dogs in the car. How are they going to leave a child?”
DCF lays out guidelines about what day-care centers must do when transporting children. Day-care drivers must have a valid Florida drivers license, an annual physical exam and valid first aid and CPR training certificates.
A log must be kept about who gets into the vehicle, and the day-care worker must check off each child as he or she gets off, according to DCF.
The driver must sign and date the log and must do a visual sweep of the vehicle, DCF said.
It is not clear what paperwork was completed Monday.
Thornton said the driver has been fired.
In July, the day-care center was cited for not keeping records of destination and arrival times and locations. DCF noted in the inspection report that the problem was taken care of. It was one of five violations for the Plymouth Avenue location since 2015, according to DCF records. The Colonial Drive location was inspected Aug. 1 and had no violations.
Family members remembered Myles as an active boy who enjoyed playing on his tablet and being with family.
On Wednesday, Audrey Thornton said Myles was a smart and loving boy.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
The center on Plymouth Avenue was authorized to care for nearly 30 children. The other location, 2514 W. Colonial Drive, opened in 2014 and had a capacity of about 140 children. DCF said it is working with families to find other child care options.
Copyright 2017 Orlando Sentinel