The family of a three-year-old girl who was allegedly left in a hot bus for six hours outside her childcare centre in central Queensland say they are hoping for a speedy recovery.
Nevaeh Austin was found unconscious on a bus in almost 30C heat by staff about 3pm on Wednesday outside Le Smileys Early Learning Centre in Gracemere.
The toddler was flown to Queensland children’s hospital in a critical condition later that night. But her family says, thankfully, her condition has since stabilised.
Speaking with Guardian Australia, a family member of Nevaeh said the toddler “was doing well”.
The family member did not wish to be named but said she was “relieved” Nevaeh’s recovery appeared to be headed in the right direction.
Nevaeh was awake and talking, her grandmother Pamela Parker told Seven News.
“She’s squealing, laughing, being silly, poking her tongue out, hiding – she’s doing awesome,” Parker said on Friday. “She is doing great, but at this stage, we don’t know [how long she’ll take to recover].”
The Queensland children’s hospital confirmed the toddler was in a stable condition but remained in the intensive care unit.
Police say an investigation into how Nevaeh was left on the bus is under way and they are investigating whether “procedures may have been breached”.
In a press conference on Thursday, Capricornia police district Det Insp Darrin Shadlow said Nevaeh was the only child who was picked up on Wednesday morning and had been transported by a bus driver and another staff member.
He said when staff eventually found Nevaeh in the bus, they performed CPR on the toddler and called triple zero.
She was then rushed to Rockhampton hospital before being airlifted to the Queensland children’s hospital.
Messages have poured in for the family and the toddler since news of the incident hit social media.
A man who identified himself as Nevaeh’s uncle posted an image of the toddler on Facebook and wrote: “#prayforveah. You got this my Lil mate.”
A person who identified as a friend of the family also wrote: “Thank you to everyone that has messaged, called or offered help at this horrendous time. Vaeh has Austin in her blood so is fighting her little heart out and has been raised by a tough woman.”
Another friend of the family said Nevaeh’s incident had made her realise how “precious” life was, adding: “Hold your babies that little bit tighter tonight.”
The Queensland education minister, Grace Grace, said the incident “simply should not have happened” and that her heart went out to the family.
“Families need to have peace of mind that when they send their children off to school, kindy or daycare, they will come home safe,” she said in a statement.
“My department, as the regulatory authority, is working closely with the [Queensland police service] to ensure we gather all of the facts surrounding this tragic event.”
Grace said after the death of a child on a bus in Cairns back in 2020, the government launched the “Look before you lock” campaign aimed at sparking behaviour change among those transporting children.
“As a result of this campaign, we have seen the numbers of children being left on buses significantly reducing. However, one child is still too many,” she said.
The minister said legislative amendments were made in October 2020 to strengthen obligations on services that transport children.
“This included a mandatory requirement for services to have a written policy and procedure for the transportation of children and that these procedures are regularly practised,” Grace said.
“So I remind everyone again to look before you lock. It’s a simple practice that must be followed every single time.”
The childcare centre did not respond to requests for comment.