PHOENIX — New information reveals the 2-year-old boy who choked to death at Tutor Time in Phoenix last October was fed a whole, frozen strawberry.
Phoenix police records say an employee who worked at the daycare facility near 7th Street and Bell Road told officers, "There were 16 children in the class. They were all fed whole frozen strawberries."
Documents say when the boy was transported to John C. Lincoln Hospital, medical staff removed a strawberry from his throat. According to the Medical Examiner's office, the boy died from complications of food asphyxia.
Police records also shed light on the daycare employees' response to the emergency. Documents say the boy came up to an employee with open arms. The employee "thought the boy was coming to give her a hug so she stopped him because his hands were dirty with food."
The employee then noticed he was not speaking so she took him to another employee saying she thought he was choking. The second employee began performing the Heimlich.
In the meantime, the first employee called the daycare's front office twice. There was no response so she left and found another employee in the front office who then tried to help the boy. Documents say at this point, the boy was not moving.
Records show a Tutor Time employee then went to the front office again. Then, a front desk employee called 911.
During the 911 call, a front office employee tells police the child is choking and passed out. Police and fire were immediately dispatched to the daycare, but before officers arrive, the 911 dispatcher helps coach the daycare employees on performing the Heimlich maneuver and CPR.
"Is he getting any air?" the dispatcher asks.
"No! No!" a frantic employee answered. "He's blue though. He's not responding."
Police documents say the employee who performed the Heimlich was CPR certified in California but not in Arizona.
Documents say the third employee involved who tried to help was certified in England for emergency first aid and CPR but was not certified in Arizona.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, Tutor Time near 7th Street and Bell Road was surveyed in April, nearly six months after the toddler died. During the April visit, inspectors found eight citations. In one particularly egregious situation, surveyors found "chaos" during lunchtime.
"During lunch service, numerous 1-year-old children were observed running and walking around the classroom," the report said in part. "One child was walking throughout the room eating food from the ground. One child was licking the back door several times and then climbing on the wooden play kitchen cabinet."
The report continued, "One child appeared to have a mouth-full of food and was trying to keep the food from spilling out."
AZDHS documents show the daycare center has had to pay three civil penalties since 2016.
Tutor Time sent 12 News the following statement:
"We take our responsibility as caregivers very seriously.
"We are heartbroken that a child from our school has passed away, and we mourn with the family. We fully cooperated with the agencies and have taken all appropriate actions based on their recommendations.
"For decades, our schools have provided high quality early education and nurturing care for millions of families, including many thousands of families in Arizona.
"Our staff are trained in our comprehensive safety policies and procedures to ensure we are in compliance with state regulations. This includes policies for the preparation and serving of food, which we have further detailed and clarified since this incident occurred.
"We follow state requirements regarding the number of CPR-certified staff present at school. On Oct. 23, 2018, we met the state’s CPR guidelines. We have further strengthened our policies and procedures to ensure the safety of every child. Among the changes: school phones have been reconfigured to ensure maximum ability to respond in case of an emergency.
"Due to privacy and confidentiality constraints, we can’t provide details regarding employment matters.
"Nothing is more important to us than our children’s safety."