Daycare tragedy follows similar incident two years ago
The three year old boy who was found dead on a daycare bus in Cairns this week was not the first child to be left on-board one of the company's vehicles during a heatwave, it can be revealed.
In the latest incident, the boy was found dead inside a blue Goodstart Early Learning vehicle on Tuesday, leaving the driver in "shock and distress" and police working to find out "exactly what has happened".
The devastating find was made in the carpark outside Hambledon State School in the southern suburb of Edmonton at 3.15pm. Temperatures reached 34C in Cairns on Tuesday.
Mystery still surrounds the circumstances that led to the tragedy as police investigations continue.
In 2018, a 14-month-old girl was left in a bus used by Goodstart Early Learning in Parkwood on the Gold Coast for more than an hour, on a day when temperatures reached about 30 degrees.
Gold Coast mother Lisa Easton, whose daughter was left in the bus at Parkwood was distressed to hear her nightmare had not only been repeated, but this time ended in tragedy.
"I never thought this could happen to a child. I thought I could believe that the system had changed and they'd put the proper procedures in place," the tearful mother told Nine News.
"That could easily have been my daughter if it wasn't for that worker that took the rubbish out to the bins. She would have been on that bus until 3pm as well. "
My daughter was quite vocal as well. The fact that she was an only child that was picked up that morning as well, that was what came as a great shock to me that she had been forgotten about."
It has since emerged that death threats have been made against "devastated" daycare staff, prompting Goodstart Early Learning Cairns to post security outside its doors, The Courier Mail reports.
"Given the current circumstances and increased media interest the decision was made to engage our contractors in Cairns," a spokeswoman for Goodstart said.
"Goodstart has security contractors across the country available for all centres.
"Childcare centres are often a target for vandalism given the fact they are always closed from 6pm till morning.
"We regularly engage our security contractors for a variety of reasons."
Goodstart Early Learning chief executive Julia Davison said the Gold Coast incident had resulted in policy and procedural changes.
She said drivers must complete all checks in line with several policies including a "responsibilities checklist" while children are marked on a roll as they board and then a roll call is conducted at the end of each journey.
"After the incident on the Gold Coast we conducted a review of our policy, procedures and staff training," Ms Davison said.
"Our drivers are also expected to walk through the bus and check that it is empty."
She said their bus service was usually used by those who did not have the means or the finances to get their children to a learning centre.
"We provide the bus service in communities where families do not have the resources to get their children to early learning - and often these children are the ones who need it most as they come from families experiencing disadvantage," she said.
A police spokesman told news.com.au the male driver of the bus, who discovered the young child, was taken to Cairns Base Hospital "suffering shock and distress".
At the scene yesterday, Detective Inspector Jason Smith said it was "early days" and "a number of factors could be at play here".
Nine reported the boy boarded the bus on Tuesday morning and was supposed to be dropped off at a local daycare centre but remained on the bus for the entire day.
According to the ABC, police said he had been picked up from his house but would not confirm that he had been left in the vehicle throughout the day.
"We're just trying to work out exactly what has happened between now and when he should have been delivered to a daycare centre," Insp Smith said.
"The death of any child is an awful thing which is why it's so important for us to get to the bottom of this."
Ms Davison told Today her team was "still trying to come to terms with this".
"All of our 15,000 educators are devastated and shocked," she said.
"It is every family's worst nightmare that something might happen to their child and it is every educator's worst nightmare something might happen to a child in their care."
Ms Davison offered her deepest condolences to the family of the boy.
"Obviously we will do anything we possibly can to reach out and support the family of the young boy who tragically died yesterday. We have got counselling services on the ground to support other families and educators.
"Obviously there's the police investigation that has already commenced. There will be various other agencies who are involved in investigations. We have decided, as a precaution - this has been a very difficult decision for us to make - to not use our buses from later today.
"We want to be conservative, we want to actually understand and make sure that we have got every possible procedure in place, that all of our staff have received refresher training.
"We obviously don't know what happened in this particular incident but we want to be cautious but at the same time we're a not-for-profit that picks up and collects lots of vulnerable children who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to access early learning."
The company has more than half a dozen childcare centres in the Cairns area around the primary school.
A report will be prepared for the coroner.