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Where was he for six hours? Police trace boy’s movements

URGENT warnings have been issued to educators and bus operators in the aftermath of a three-year-old boy's tragic death in a minibus in Cairns this week.

Education Minister Grace Grace and Transport Minister Mark Bailey have sent directives to their respective departments urging all drivers and educators to "look before they lock" vehicles transporting children.

Grace Grace at State Parliament .Pic Annette Dew
Grace Grace at State Parliament .Pic Annette Dew

Ms Grace said while the circumstances in which the three-year-old boy was found dead on a Goodstart vehicle in Edmonton on Tuesday were not yet fully known, the message was clear to drivers and operators.

"There have been too many incidents of children being left behind on buses in the past year," she said.

"Parents need to have peace of mind that when they send their children off to school, kindy or day care, they will come home safe."

Mr Bailey, who warned one shortcut on safety could have lifelong consequences, said the departmental directors-general had an urgent meeting to develop actions for addressing the safety of children on buses.

Police officers attend Hambledon State School at Edmonton, where a 3 year old was found dead in a Goodstart Early Learning Centre minibus at around 3:30pm on Tuesday. A police forensic officer inspects the van. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Police officers attend Hambledon State School at Edmonton, where a 3 year old was found dead in a Goodstart Early Learning Centre minibus at around 3:30pm on Tuesday. A police forensic officer inspects the van. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

The comments came after the little boy's lifeless body was found inside the van by the "distraught" driver on Tuesday, six hours after he was picked up from home.

But Far North Detective Inspector Jason Smith said it was unclear if "the child was inside the motor vehicle for the entirety of that time".

"We're keeping an open mind in regard to this investigation. A number of things are at play, but nothing short of a thorough investigation will reveal the truth,'' he said.

With the city in the grip of a heatwave, on a 34C day, temperatures inside the minibus likely hit up to 70C.

Forensic analysis, scientific reports and an autopsy to determine time and cause of death would give "a clearer picture" in coming days, Insp Smith said.

"We're looking at CCTV across the city to track the movements of the subject vehicle," Insp Smith said.

"We know the driver of the vehicle had other appointments.

"But exactly where the child was, we are yet to confirm.

"We'll be doing our best to get to the bottom of this."

Police officers attend Hambledon State School at Edmonton, where a 3 year old was found dead in a Goodstart Early Learning Centre minibus at around 3:30pm on Tuesday. A police forensic officer inspects the van. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Police officers attend Hambledon State School at Edmonton, where a 3 year old was found dead in a Goodstart Early Learning Centre minibus at around 3:30pm on Tuesday. A police forensic officer inspects the van. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

Police are yet to question the driver who made the heartbreaking discovery and was being treated for shock at Cairns Hospital.

They have seized a passenger checklist and rollcall procedures to identify which children got on and off the bus, and to learn why the boy was not delivered that morning to the Good Start Early Learning centre in Edmonton where he had been attending for several weeks.

"In this case, we have seized certain documents which would suggest they do have those procedures but the accuracy of those documents is being investigated," Insp Smith said.

It is known the boy was picked up from his home at 9.30am and was found dead in the parked minibus at the Hambledon State School at 3.15pm on Tuesday. The boy's mother is being supported by police indigenous liaison officers. It is unclear if any siblings were on the bus.


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