Utah

Utah day care, parents settle toddler's bean bag chair death

A Utah day care center where a toddler suffocated under a bean bag chair when a worker sat on it has reached a settlement with the parents and been cleared of criminal charges, but must undergo monthly inspections by state regulators who found three violations.

A careful review of surveillance footage of the Sept. 8 incident confirmed the initial belief by police that the worker didn't realize Leonardo Sanchez, almost 2, was under the bean bag when she sat down, said West Jordan Police Sgt. Joe Monson. Salt Lake County prosecutors reviewed the evidence and determined no charges were warranted, he said.

"It was just a very tragic accident," Monson said.

State regulators, though, found three rules violations while reviewing the footage of that day that has put the center on a closer watch. The ratio of caregivers to children was inadequate with two workers looking over 17 children — including eight 2-year-olds, found a report by the Utah Department of Health's child care licensing division. That shortfall meant insufficient supervision of children, creating the second violation. The toddler who died was out of sight of any caregiver for 20 minutes, causing the third violation.

Inspectors will make unannounced monthly inspections of the center for at least one year as a result of the findings, said Health Department spokesman Tom Hudachko. The center must also submit a plan for how they'll remedy the problems.

The center had two other violations dating back to 2012 according to records of past yearly inspections. In 2015, the center staff was cited for not having direct supervision of the children at all times when several children were outside on a patio unsupervised as they moved from inside to outside, records show. The other violation was for a gap too big in the fence.

Terms of the monetary settlement finalized this week between the dead boy's parents and the West Jordan Child Center were not disclosed by attorneys, but both sides concur it was a tragic accident and nothing intentional.

"They are a good outfit," said attorney Jessica Andrew, representing the parents. "This wasn't a case of somebody malicious or somebody super sloppy."

She said the parents hold no ill will toward the worker, and hope to communicate that sentiment to her at some point.

"They're doing as well as you can imagine," Andrew said. "This is everybody's worst nightmare."

Greg Sanders, the center's attorney, said the worker who sat on the bean bag no longer works there. He said the center is committed to making sure it doesn't happen again and complying with the state's monthly inspections.

"They have been and continue to be distraught about what happened," Sanders said.