Desperate search for answers after boy, 3, left to die
POLICE are investigating how a three-year-old boy was left to die in a daycare bus in scorching heat in Cairns, where temperatures soared above 34C yesterday.
It is understood the child was due to be dropped off at a daycare centre on Tuesday morning, but was tragically found dead inside a Goodstart Early Learning Centre minibus, parked outside a school, about 3.15pm.
The driver made the heartbreaking discovery.
Cairns has been in the grip of an extreme heatwave this week, as temperatures skyrocketed above 34C.
Queensland Police Far North Inspector Jason Smith said investigators were still piecing together exactly how the tragedy unfolded.
"We're just trying to work out exactly what's happened between now and when he should have been delivered to the daycare centre," he said.
"It appears the child was to be delivered to a daycare centre. The child has now been discovered deceased."
Detectives, forensics and scientific officers surrounded the mini-van parked outside Hambledon State School at Edmonton, south of Cairns.
A forensic officer wearing a mask took photographs inside the van as police cordoned off the area, before taking away the vehicle for forensic analysis.
It was not apparent overnight why the van was parked outside the school, which runs an after-school care program.
A Goodstart Early Learning Centre is based about 1.6km away in the same suburb.
Inspector Smith said it was an awful scenario.
"The mother has been notified," he said. "The death of any child is an awful thing, which is why it is so important for us to get to the bottom of this."
When asked if it was a heat-related death, Inspector Smith said: "We don't know at this stage because it is early days, and a number of factors could be at play here".
"We'll investigate all possibilities," he said.
A Goodstart Early Learning spokeswoman said they would work with authorities to investigate the matter.
"Goodstart Early Learning is devastated by the death of a child in our care in Cairns," she said.
"We are working to support the entire centre team, our families and our children. Our thoughts are very much with the family of the child at this time."
Cairns has had record breaking temperatures for the last week, with the mercury soaring to 34.4C at 2.30pm yesterday.
According to Bureau of Meteorology data, the apparent temperature - which takes into account the humidity - reached almost 38C.
On Saturday, it was 40C - which eclipsed the previous record of 39.7C, recorded just days beforehand.
Earlier this year, The Courier-Mail revealed an investigation had been launched into how a five-year-old boy was left unattended in a locked kindy bus for more than 40 minutes at Yarrabilba, south of Brisbane.
Tyler Walton fell asleep in the Marsden Kindergarten and Child Care Centre bus after a kindy outing in December.
Last night, the Department of Education could not comment on the child's death.
Police said a report was being prepared for the coroner.