Family of toddler Nevaeh Austin found unconscious on bus from Queensland daycare center asks for answers

The grandmother of a three-year-old girl took off on a bus from Central Queensland for up to six hours on Wednesday, saying the family was “shocked” by the incident.

Pamela Parker said her granddaughter Nevaeh Austin was now “breathing herself,” but the family wanted to answer.

The toddler remains in stable condition in intensive care at Queensland Children’s Hospital after being revived on the floor of Le Smileys nursery in Gracemere, south of Rockhampton, yesterday afternoon.

Ms. Parker said she is angry and does not understand how it happened.

“You expect that kid to come home happy and healthy — maybe dirty or a little hungry — but you expect them to come home,” Ms. Parker said.

“You don’t expect a call from ‘I’m sorry’. That’s not enough. It’s not good enough.

“This is a little girl. She’s someone’s daughter. She’s someone’s granddaughter. She’s someone’s sister. She’s someone’s best friend.

It comes after police revealed that Nevaeh was the only child to be ridden on the bus from the Central Queensland Childcare Center before being let in at about 6pm yesterday afternoon.

Nevaeh Austin is in critical condition in a Brisbane hospital.Delivered

Prognosis looks positive

Ms. Parker said she would fight to make sure this never happens again.

“I will make sure this never happens again. I will fight for it. I will give up my life for my grandchildren. I will give up my life for my children,” she said.

Ms. Parker said her granddaughter’s prognosis looked positive.

“She’s fine and she’s tired, but she’s here, she’s breathing on her own, she’s her happy self.”

She described Nevaeh as an outgoing and energetic three-year-old.

“She’s sassy. She likes people. She likes to make noise. She likes make-up – typically three-year-olds.

“She’ll stop and talk to the workmen about their day, tell them what truck they’re driving and say ‘have a nice day,'” she said.

Superintendent Darrin Shadlow said two Le Smileys Early Learning Center employees got off the bus at 9am yesterday without Nevaeh.

He said she was found unconscious six hours later when staff went to use the bus for after-school pick-up at about 3:00 p.m.

Police tape seals the driveway of Le Smileys Early Learning Center.
Police tape closed the Le Smileys Early Learning Center in Gracmere, south of Rockhampton, early this morning.ABC News: Katrina Beavan

“It appears that Nevaeh was the only child on the bus at the time,” he said.

“Obviously when they returned to the center, the driver and another person who were on the bus at the time forgot she was there.

“It appears that procedures have been violated…and a young child is fighting for his life.”

Nevaeh was taken to the center, where paramedics performed CPR to resuscitate her.

She was transported to Rockhampton Hospital and then flown to Brisbane overnight.

A 'don't leave your children in the car' sign hanging at the front of the nursery.
A sign at the front of the childcare center, warning of the danger of leaving children in cars.ABC News: Rachel McGhee

Detective Inspector Shadlow declined to speculate whether Nevaeh would make a full recovery.

“She was in a pretty serious condition last night, I believe it has stabilized a bit,” he said.

“She’s still critical, but thankfully stable.”

‘Second row left’

Detective Inspector Shadlow said Nevaeh was picked up from a Gracemere home in the morning and was sitting in the second row of the bus with her bag when she was left behind.

It was parked in front of the center, next to the main entrance.

Police detective inspector for Capricornia Darrin Shadlow speaking media
Police Detective Inspector for Capricornia Darrin Shadlow said the investigation into the incident is ongoing.ABC News: Rachel McGhee

“We will leave no stone unturned with regard to the investigations,” he said.

“We will also have photographic and our scientific, forensic officers on site [today]so we can cover every base and get to the bottom of what exactly happened.”

The team will also monitor who is coming and going from the center during the day.

“We may be looking beyond just the driver and the support person,” he said.

Daycare center Le Smileys
The Le Smileys daycare center in Gracemere, where a child was left on a bus, seriously injuring her.ABC News: Rachel McGhee

Detective Inspector Shadlow believed the bus belonged to the center and that both adults sitting there worked for the center.

The center was cordoned off by police this morning and it was unclear when it would reopen.

“We have identified a crime scene on the bus at the childcare center at this stage,” Detective Inspector Shadlow said.

“The childcare center won’t be operational until we clear that crime scene, which could take a few days.”

Employees cooperate ‘to a certain extent’

Detective Inspector Shadlow said the personnel involved “cooperated to some extent” but legal advice had been sought.

“We are all praying for Nevaeh’s full recovery,” he said.

†[The family] are clearly distraught…and are with Nevaeh in Brisbane.”

Paramedic Jason Thompson looks stern.
Mr Thompson said the girl was unconscious when paramedics arrived.ABC News: Rachel McGhee

Jason Thompson, operations supervisor for the Queensland Ambulance Service, said yesterday that paramedics treated her on the floor of the children’s center.

“I get goosebumps talking about it now,” said Mr Thompson.

“When a child is sick, it’s traumatic, and when someone is that critical and unconscious, your heart goes out to them.”

The incident comes two years after three-year-old Malik Nicholas Floyd Namok-Malamoo died after being found on a bus from the Goodstart Early Learning center in Edmonton, south of Cairns.

Police care outside childcare.
Police parked in front of Le Smileys nursery in Gracemere, south of Rockhampton, where a child was abandoned in a minibus.ABC News: Rachel McGhee

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick said it was important for police to complete the investigation.

“Whether you run a daycare, whether you run a daycare or preschool, whether you’re a mom or dad, anyone who takes care of children has a very simple rule to follow when their kids are in a vehicle: ‘Look before you close,” he said.

“That’s a very simple rule and I think we find it difficult for many of us to understand how this incident could have happened again.”

Queensland’s Education Minister Grace Grace said the campaign to reduce the number of children left behind on buses has been successful.

“As a result of this campaign, we have seen a significant decrease in the number of children abandoned on buses,” she said.

Ms Grace said her department, which acts as a regulatory body, is working closely with the police on this matter.

“The regulatory body does not hesitate to take serious action when services fail to guarantee the health and safety of children, and where other tragic incidents have occurred, appropriate action has been taken,” she said.

Changes made after the child’s death in Cairns

Majella Fitzsimmons, president of the Australian Childcare Alliance Queensland, said the Queensland government updated the legislation following Malik’s death.

Detective photographs a minibus from a daycare center where a child was abandoned
An investigating officer yesterday photographed the minibus where a child was left for several hours in Rockhampton.ABC News: Rachel McGhee

She said nurseries should have policies and procedures in place for transporting children on the bus and staff should undergo a risk assessment and be retrained on a quarterly basis.

She said most childcare buses were used to help vulnerable and underprivileged families who do not live on a bus route or do not have a car to take their children to childcare.

“It’s so important for these kids to attend early childhood services in those zero to five years for that brain development and early intervention,” said Ms. Fitzsimmons.

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