Thu, Sep 22, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Kindergarten staff out on bail

TRAGEDY The owner of a Taichung County kindergarten and three of her employees appeared in court briefly yesterday after the death of a three-year-old boy in their care

BY RICH CHANG  /  STAFF REPORTER

The owner of a kindergarten in Taichung County, the school's mini-bus driver and two teachers were released on bail when they appeared in court yesterday after the death of a three-year old boy surnamed Chen, who suffocated on Tuesday after allegedly being left unattended in the kindergarten's mini-bus for 7 hours.

"The four were charged with murder through negligence," Chang Hung-mo (張宏謀), a spokesman for the Taichung Prosecutors' Office, said yesterday.

"The boy was left in the mini-bus for about 7 hours. Because of the high temperature inside the mini-bus, the boy was severely dehydrated before he suffocated," Chang said.

Chang said that the little boy died at least three hours before he was found on Tuesday at 3:30pm.

The owner of Tumbler Kindergarten (不倒翁幼稚園) in Taichung County's Chingshui (清水) Township, Shi Chiung-feng (許瓊鳳), and her husband, the mini-bus driver Ong Chiu-hwa (翁秋華), were released on bail of NT$100,000 (US$3,030) each. Two teachers, Cho Meng-yuan (卓孟媛) and Lin Mei-hwa (林美華), were released on NT$50,000 bail each.

County police said they were informed of the incident by the kindergarten at 3:30pm on Tuesday. Shi and Ong told the police that Chen suffered serious injuries after falling from his seat and hitting the floor with his head while students were being transported home from school in the mini-bus.

However, police found the little boy dead with blood on his face. Someone had allegedly cleaned up blood stains on the floor of the mini-bus before the police arrived at the scene.

After a post-mortem was performed, prosecutors started suspecting that the boy had been left in the bus at 9am and was only found after school at around 3:30pm. He was already dead.

Prosecutors said Shi and Ong initially insisted that the boy was already dead when the mini-bus took him home, but after hours of questioning, they admitted that the boy had likely been left in the mini-bus that morning.

According to prosecutors, while the teacher who accompanied the children on the mini-bus admitted she did not count them when they arrived at the kindergarten that morning, another teacher told them that she had ignored Chen's absence and did not report it to his family.

The boy's parents, who lost their only child, were inconsolable. They told reporters that Shi and her husband attempted to cover up the incident and lied to them.

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