'I'm destroyed inside' Family suing over death of 3-year-old left in hot day care van

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston family is suing the operators of a day care for negligence after their 3-year-old son died from being left in the center's hot van.

Raymond and Dikeisha Whitlock-Pryer are suing for more than $1 million in damages for mental anguish and burial expenses. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday morning in Harris County.

"He was a miracle child, a miracle child," Dikeisha said. "I'm 41 and his father is 43. (R.J.) is my first and only child."

Their son, Raymond Pryer, Junior, died on July 20 after returning from a field trip with his day care, the Discovering Me Academy, on Antoine around 2:30 p.m.

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Authorities say the preschooler, who also went by R.J., was on the trip with 28 other students. According to the day care, R.J. was accounted for at that time.

The Precinct 1 Constable's Office says the child was found unresponsive in the van around 7 p.m., when his father arrived to pick him up.

Deputy constables said it appeared R.J. was left in the vehicle for at least four hours. Temperatures inside reached at least 113 degrees, Constable Alan Rosen said.

"They told me he had already been picked up. But, he wasn't," Raymond said. "So, I looked around and looked around for him and when I saw the firetruck, I just took off running to the back and I had that bad feeling and I saw him," Raymond said.

When EMS workers arrived, they began to work on the child. He was transported to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

"This was a horrible, preventable death, and no child should be put at such risk," R.J.'s parents said in a statement released by their attorney, Larry Wilson, of Houston's Lanier Law Firm.

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The parents of a child who died after being left on a hot day care van have filed a lawsuit.

According to records, the day care was cited for several violations involving their van in 2015. One violation included not having an electronic child safety alarm, which is used to notify a driver that a child was left in the vehicle.

The day care was also cited for not reporting a wreck involving the van in a timely manner, and for a driver not knowing the number of children in her group.

A Harris County grand jury investigation into R.J.'s death is pending. The lawsuit states that the day care owner, van driver and chaperones all neglected to check the bus and make sure all of the students were off safely.

Eyewitness News reached out to the day care for comment on the lawsuit and was told they have nothing to say.

R.J.'s parents also announced Tuesday that they are in the process of setting up a foundation called the R.J. Foundation 4 Kids that will focus on preventing hot car deaths. They told Eyewitness News they are seeking to get the laws and procedures changed to ensure children are protected when they are dropped off at day care facilities.

R.J. was described as a 3-year-old who loved shapes, singing and the color yellow.

"He has touched a lot of lives. He has been involved in a lot of people's lives and they all loved him and cared for him dearly," his mother said.

SEE ALSO: Texas ranks No. 1 for child hot car deaths in the US

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