School CEO talks about special-needs boy left in van

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

PHOENIX – A 6-year-old boy who has Down syndrome was sent to the hospital after his family says he was left alone on a school van for three hours under the hot Arizona sun. The CEO of the school promised a full investigation to make sure such a thing never happens again.

His mother says he is lucky to be alive.

"They are monitoring him right now,” Tracy Roberts told 3TV Wednesday evening. “They are very concerned about dehydration."

Tanner McCarty has Down syndrome and has been going to a summer school program for children with developmental disabilities. He was allegedly picked up Wednesday afternoon by his school bus driver.

However, several hours later when his mom showed up at her son's school, Quest Alliance, she was told her son was a no-show.

That's when the school's director ran outside to check the vans parked out in the scorching sun.

"He came around the van with my son in his arms,” Roberts said as she started to cry. “He was totally red. He was conscious but totally lethargic and obviously in distress. He looked terrified."

Rather than call 911 she says the school went into panic mode.

"They started talking," she said. The people who worked there were telling each other what happened. And, they were saying they just found Tanner in the van and I had to scream at them, ‘Stop! You need to call 911 right now’!"

The high Wednesday was 105 degrees. The inside of the van would have been much hotter.

According to Phoenix police, the child was in that van for at least an hour. Roberts believes it was longer.

"I do know he was picked up from his babysitter’s house at 12:45 p.m., and I didn’t get there until 3:30 p.m.”

She says there were seat belts that her son couldn’t disengage.

"Because he was strapped in, there was no way for him to get out of the van on his own," she explained.

The child was rushed to the hospital and is expected to recover. He has since been released and reportedly is doing well.

"I am very, very angry," Roberts said. "If I had picked him up at my normal time, he would have been in that van for at least another hour. I was lucky. I got to leave work early today. My son could be dead and it would be completely through their negligence."

The CEO of Quest Alliance was apologetic when she spoke briefly with 3TV's Javier Soto Thursday morning.

"We are investigating the situation," Susan Bastian said. "We are very, very sorry. Our prayers go out to the family. ... We're investigating the matter."

No information about the person who was driving the van has been made public.

Phoenix police says nobody was arrested as a result of this incident. The case is being submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for possible charges.