Autistic man, 20, dies after being left in hot group-home van; Pa. counselor suspended

An autistic young man who didn't speak was left in a scorching van at a residential treatment home in suburban Philadelphia, where his lifeless, overheated body was found more than five hours after his small group returned from an amusement park.

Bryan Nevins, 20, was not deemed missing until a nurse looked for him to give him medication around 4 p.m. Saturday, as temperatures reached the high 90s. Nevins had returned with two other counselors and three other clients around noon from a brief trip to nearby Sesame Place.

Nevins was found in a parked van at Woods Services, a treatment home about 20 miles northeast of Philadelphia in Langhorne, where the native New Yorker had lived since he was about 14.

His twin brother, also autistic, lived at the center as well, authorities said. The surviving twin, who had not been on the outing, left the home with relatives after his brother's death, Middletown Township Detective Jeffry Sproehnle said.

The counselor responsible for Nevins on the trip also served as the van driver. She has been suspended, Sproehnle said. Woods Services did not return several calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Sproehnle did not disclose her initial statements to police but said she had contacted at least two lawyers. It's not known whether she retained one. Police are investigating to see whether any criminal charges are warranted.

Bucks County coroner Dr. Joseph Campbell said Nevins died of hyperthermia and ruled his death accidental. He said Nevins was from Oceanside, N.Y., where a listed number for his family could not be located Tuesday.

The family previously lived in Queens, and Nevins had been placed at the Pa. facility by special education officials in New York state, according to Laura Postiglione, a spokeswoman for New York City's Administration for Children's Services.

According to the detective, a male and female counselor were each responsible for two clients on the trip. The female counselor, who was driving, dropped off her colleague and his two clients on campus and then drove a short distance to the adjoining homes where the two remaining clients lived.

Only one client made it inside.

"The van she was driving ended up back where it was supposed to be, and parked. ... She was only seen with one of the clients after that," Sproehnle said. The counselor turned in the van keys before finishing her shift at 3 p.m.

Police did not disclose the name of the suspended counselor but said she had worked at the center for about eight years.

The home has a license in good standing, according to Mike Race, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.

In November, a 17-year-old Woods resident died when he was struck by at least two cars after falling or jumping from a highway overpass.

The state welfare department investigated but concluded that staff did what they could and were not at fault, Race said. According to the agency's findings, the disorderly teen ran from an exit door at 1 a.m., setting off alarms and leading to an unsuccessful pursuit by staff members.

Woods Services was founded in 1913 and provides residential, educational and vocational services to more than 1,400 children and adults with various disabilities, according to its website.

(This version CORRECTS spelling of victim's first name to Bryan.)