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story.lead_photo.caption Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Jonesboro

An Arkansas legislator who oversees a child-care company said Wednesday that he feels "overwhelming sadness" over the death of a 5-year-old inside a day care's vehicle. The center has fired four employees.

Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Jonesboro, who has served as CEO of Ascent since 2013, said that "staff did not follow company policies and procedures, and if they had, this tragedy would not have occurred."

Christopher Gardner was picked up at 6:40 a.m. Monday by a van from the Ascent Children's Health Services in West Memphis, the Associated Press previously reported.

The 5-year-old was never taken inside the facility, which serves children with developmental disabilities, and was reportedly found dead, still strapped in a booster seat, more than eight hours later when employees were preparing to take children home.

The heat index for the area reportedly reached nearly 100 degrees Monday afternoon.

Police have not said whether charges will be filed in the child's death. The state Department of Human Services is reportedly conducting an investigation into the facility.

Sullivan says the company has been in contact with Christopher's family and that it will continue to work with the authorities investigating the death.

Ascent operates facilities across Arkansas, including centers in North Little Rock, Jonesboro and Arkadelphia.

The second-term state representative said in a statement that there "are simply no words to express the overwhelming sadness we feel at the death of this child."

"We are heartbroken and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family," Sullivan stated.

The West Memphis location will be closed through Friday, the statement said.


More headlines

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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Archived Comments

  • LRDawg
    June 14, 2017 at 1:08 p.m.

    Shut it down!!!

  • PopMom
    June 14, 2017 at 2:27 p.m.

    Why are so many state legislators in the child care business?

  • TimberTopper
    June 14, 2017 at 3:26 p.m.

    Mom, another way of getting money from the state. Chances are many or most are children of special needs, and the state pays for this service, maybe along with federal money as well. You know it doesn't hurt to have an "inside track" to success. Maybe I shouldn't be this way but, I expect a lot of the heartbrokenness to be caused by the amount of red tape, questions, and investigations that will be taking place. I guess my question would be how can we allow legislators in this type of business when that would make the people in state government that inspect these places, have to answer back to those legislators. Got a feeling this may be one of those buddy buddy things.

  • PopMom
    June 14, 2017 at 4:42 p.m.


    I guessed as much.

  • Queen1976
    June 14, 2017 at 4:46 p.m.

    Is Sullivan truly "heartbroken" because this tragedy happened - or because his company will most likely get hit with a huge lawsuit & penalities? He's a politician, isn't he? Let's stop giving these "chosen few" an easy way out, when us normal folks would get charged with a felony!

  • Longhaul
    June 14, 2017 at 5:38 p.m.

    I'm sure the person in charge of picking up the children is being paid minimum wage.

  • dbsbuildingsolutions
    June 14, 2017 at 9:35 p.m.

    I heard that there is a system that makes the a van have a LOUD BUZZER once the van is turned off and remains buzzing until the back door is opened and a button pressed and then the side door opened and a button is pressed. Making van drivers look inside and press the button makes it so no children are missed!
    It should be law to use a system like this, on any vehicle upon turning it off, that transports many children.

  • herenow
    June 15, 2017 at 4:31 a.m.

    It would be interesting to see how Representative Sullivan voted on efforts to restrict the amount of money allowed in lawsuit payments. I expect nothing will happen to the legislator. Don't forget Rep. Justin Harris was never held responsible for "re-homing" the child he forced DHS to allow him to adopt. Elected officials should not be allowed to "do business" with the state. There is too much opportunity for malfeasance.