Missing six hours of boy who died on bus
A checklist for kids getting on and off a child care bus in Cairns has been handed to police after a three-year-old boy was found dead inside, six hours after he was picked up from home.
"We just want to establish that picture as to what happened to the child," Detective Inspector Jason Smith told reporters today.
"Where was he? Whose care was he in?"
The young boy was found dead on the blue Goodstart Early Learning mini bus shortly after 3pm on Tuesday. It was parked outside Hambledon State School in the southern suburb of Edmonton.
The three-year-old child was collected from his home in Edmonton at 9.30am by the same male driver who later found his body.
Insp Smith said they are aware the driver of the vehicle "had other appointments" on Tuesday but it's currently "unclear" what happened to the bus in those six hours.
"From what I understand, at this stage, that bus does a number of runs and conveys students and day care children to different venues, including returning them home after the day," he said.
"This is a really sensitive situation and the welfare of any students that might have been on the bus will be of paramount concern to us."
The Goodstart Early Learning centre is about 1.5 kilometres, or a three-minute drive, from the primary school.
Insp Smith was asked by a reporter whether there was a passenger list or roll call for the trip.
"Ordinarily there is, and in this case we've seen certain documents that suggests they do have those sorts of procedures but the accuracy of those documents is being investigated," he said.
"They've been handed over.
"We'll be looking at them to suggest if they establish anything of interest to the investigation."
The male bus driver was taken to Cairns Base Hospital "suffering shock and distress", police said.
On Wednesday afternoon, he was yet to be interviewed.
The boy, who has siblings, was not reported missing during the day and had been attending the particular Goodstart Early Learning centre for "at least a number of weeks", police said.
His mother was informed of his death on Tuesday afternoon. Police said two indigenous family liaison officers are keeping the boy's relatives informed and also providing support.
"This is horrific and they (the family) were distraught," Insp Smith said.
The detective said police are keeping an "open mind" and "a number of things are at play" however "nothing short of a thorough investigation will reveal the truth".
He said it was "really too early to tell" if any criminal charges will be laid.
"The space in between 9.15am and 3.15pm, that's what we're investigating and that includes exactly when the child might have passed away," he said.
"We'll be trying to identify a timeline as to exactly where the motor vehicle was or indeed was the child inside the motor vehicle for the entirety of that period.
"We're looking at CCTV across the city to see if we can track the movements of the subject vehicle."
The temperature reached 34C yesterday in Cairns.
"Queensland Ambulance Service were the first to respond followed shortly by police," Insp Smith said.
"They did what they could but unfortunately they were not able to save the child."
Police said Goodstart Early Learning "is of interest" as the agency linked to the mini bus.
"But they've been assisting us with our inquiries, they've provided us with the paperwork, their management is coming up from Brisbane and their senior management locally has been assisting us as much as they can," Insp Smith said on Wednesday.
Chief executive Julia Davison this morning 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.
The Edmonton centre was closed on Wednesday.
In a statement, Ms Davison said the company had decided to "temporarily suspend" its bus services.
"This was not an easy decision to make as this service enables many vulnerable children to access early learning, however we need to ensure our safety processes and procedures are the best they can be," she said.
"Our bus services will complete their scheduled pick up and drop off services today, with additional checks in place until all children are home this afternoon."
Sources close to the centre told Daily Mail Australia that the mini bus is "understaffed" with just one carer who is also the driver.
Head checks are reportedly meant to be conducted every 30 minutes along with yard checks.
"The qualified team at Goodstart Edmonton are continuously developing their professional skills to ensure that the highest quality of care is provided to your child," the company's website states.
The bus was towed from the scene overnight and is being treated as a crime scene.
Insp Smith would not say where inside the bus the three-year-old boy's body was discovered.