Arizona mom says camp counselors left special needs son in hot van

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PHOENIX, Ariz. — A Mesa mother is demanding a police investigation after counselors at her special needs son’s camp allegedly left him in a hot van for more than two hours, KPHO reports.

Kaitlin Maher says she got a call while she was at work earlier this month that her son was missing.

“I just stopped. I dropped everything,” Maher recalls.

Moments later, “missing” turned to “found,” but the panic only grew worse.

Maher says her soon-to-be 10-year-old son Ethan was on a field trip with about a dozen other special needs kids through a summer camp called DTS program. The program is operated by TLC Services, a Mesa company that works with individuals with developmental disabilities.

Maher says the children were taken to the movie theater at Tempe Marketplace on July 9. While all of the other children were inside the movies, Ethan was reportedly left in the passenger van. Maher says the van was not running, the windows were left up, and Ethan was strapped in and unable to get out.

According to a Tempe Police spokesperson, it wasn’t until the camp counselors were serving lunch hours later and realized they had an extra lunch bag, that they discovered Ethan was missing. The counselors searched the theater and then went out to the van and allegedly found Ethan inside. Investigators believe he was left in the hot van for more than two hours.

Counselors took Ethan to the hospital and contacted Maher. Paperwork shows he was treated for dehydration and heat exposure.

“He really could have died. Every doctor that we’ve seen, every specialist said that he shouldn’t be alive right now,” Maher says. “They could have killed my son.”

Maher says Ethan suffers from Angelman Syndrome, a condition that left him unable to speak, and leads to seizures, particularly when he is exposed to heat. Maher says over the past couple of weeks since the incident, Ethan’s seizures have increased and he is anxious when he has to get in the car.

“I really want them to pay the consequence,” Maher says. “I really would love for them to be shut down at this point.”

Tempe Police Lieutenant Mike Pooley says it is possible the camp counselors will be charged. The preliminary investigation found the counselors never called police when they noticed the boy was missing, and they did not call an ambulance after finding him in the hot van. Investigators are waiting for medical records before forwarding the case to the County Attorney’s office.

Calls placed to TLC Services were not immediately returned. No one answered the door at the company owner’s home.

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