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November 23, 2011

Daycare bus kills boy, 6, in 2nd death involving child center's vehicles

By Jody Callahan
The Commercial Appeal

OAKSHIRE, Tenn. — A 6-year-old boy was struck and killed by a day care bus Monday afternoon, marking the second time a vehicle from the Pee Wee Wisdom Child Care Center has been associated with a child's death.

The first-grader, identified as Anthony Scott, was in the parking lot of Whitehaven's Oakshire Elementary at 1675 E. Holmes when he was struck by the bus.

Joined by school principal Thomas Rogers, Anthony was rushed by ambulance to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, but later died.

His death follows a 1999 incident where a 2-year-old boy succumbed to brutally hot temperatures after being left for five hours on a bus from the same day care center.

"I'm almost speechless right now," said Willie Rhodes, Memphis City Schools southwest regional superintendent. "Young children are our most precious commodity. It's tragic and devastating to the MCS community."

Pee Wee Wisdom, which has two Memphis locations, has a high three-star rating, according to the state Department of Human Services.

However, the facilities have had a troubled past. In July 1999, 2-year-old Brandon Mann died after being left in a van at the center's 4752 Millbranch facility, not far from Oakshire Elementary. Driver Preston Young was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in Brandon's death.

In 2003, a Pee Wee center at 1141 Whitaker caught fire, but all children and workers made it out safely.

And former Pee Wee operator Vivian Braxton, who embezzled almost $500,000 in public funds meant for poor children, was sentenced to six months in prison in 2004.

As of late Monday, officials still didn't know exactly what happened at the K-5 school or whether anyone was to blame for the incident. The name of the bus driver was not released.

On a rainy afternoon, investigators were outside the school, measuring distances to the bus.

Police believe Anthony was hit by the front of the bus, but don't know exactly how he got there. Monday's weather could have contributed to the incident, Memphis Police Maj. Loris Hopkins said.

The incident happened at about 2:40 p.m., about a half-hour after school let out. Although it is normal practice for day care buses to pick up students for after-school care, investigators don't know whether the boy was trying to board the bus, Hopkins said.

After Anthony was struck, several parents and school officials called 911, Hopkins said, while others tried to help the boy.

Latitanna Collins, 10, a fifth-grader at the school, heard the commotion and ran to see what was going on.

"I just saw a little boy laying down," she said.

A woman answering the phone at the Millbranch Pee Wee center Monday night refused to comment on the incident.

Grief counselors will be available at Oakshire Elementary today , Rhodes said.

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