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Lawmaker pushing for less regulation has child die in van at his facility

Four employees of a child care facility that cares for special needs children have been fired two days after the death of a child left in a hot day care van. (Photo courtesy WATN)

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) -- Four employees of a child care facility that cares for special needs children have been fired two days after the death of a child left in a hot day care van.

The CEO of Ascent Children’s Health Services is a state lawmaker.

Dan Sullivan is a state representative from Jonesboro who aggressively advocates for less regulation of the child care industry in Arkansas.

But had existing regulations been followed at one of his centers, five-year-old Christopher Gardner would be alive.

"It didn't take them but two minutes or one minute to go back and get off their lazy asses and go see where they kids at,” says Carrie Smith, the grandmother of Christopher Gardner. “They didn't check for my grandbaby."

The family of Christopher Gardner got an apology from Ascent Children's Health Services on Wednesday.

A statement released by CEO Dan Sullivan reads in part "...we know our staff did not follow company policies and procedures, and if they had, this tragedy would not have occurred. We will continue to reach out to the family to see how we can be of assistance during this difficult time."

Last April, Sullivan appeared before the Arkansas Early Childhood Commission and requested it reduce a new requirement that 50% of all child care employees at any facility be certified in CPR and first aid.

When they refused, four commissioners tell KATV they heard Representative Sullivan while leaving vow to address the need for the commission during the next legislative session.

Act 576, the only bill sponsored by Sullivan that became law during the 91st General Assembly, stripped the commission of its authority to regulate child care centers.

Meanwhile the investigation into the death of Christopher Gardner continues.

"This child was going to school and his parents were putting him on a bus,” says West Memphis Police Chief Donald Oakes. “No bad decisions. Just a horrible lack of effort on the part of people taking care of this child."

Representative Sullivan told a House committee in February that the child care industry is vastly overregulated and that somebody has to take a stand.

Ascent Children's Health Services has offered assistance in covering funeral expenses.

Air date: June 14th, 2017

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