The girl, nicknamed Qi Qi, was unintentionally left in the car by her father who forgot to drop her off at school because he was distracted by a phone call, according to various Chinese media outlets.
Qi Qi’s parents blamed the school for her death. They said the school failed to notify them in advance when their daughter did not show up in class.
Parents Blame the School
Qi Qi’s mother, surnamed Su, recalled sending Qi Qi back to school after the Chinese Qing Ming festival. “When she was heading out the door, she was so happy, I tied her ponytail, and she was wearing her school uniform,” Su said in a video interview with Hunan Economic Television Station.
Qing Ming festival is a traditional holiday in China to honor deceased relatives.
On April 8, Qi Qi and her father, surnamed Hu, were driving to school that morning. She was sitting in the back seat behind him. According to the call records from Hu’s phone, he received a call at 8:46 a.m., the Hunan Economic Television Station reported.
The phone call distracted Hu’s train of thought, and he drove directly to work instead of the school, according to an official statement from the Ministry of Education in Heshan district.
Hu locked the doors when he got out of the car, but he forgot that Qi Qi was still in it. He didn’t return to his vehicle until the evening, the Ministry of Education said.
When Su went to pick up her daughter from the kindergarten at 5 p.m., the school informed her that Qi Qi was absent that day. “When I went to pick her up, the kindergarten told me that Qi Qi didn’t come to school today,” Su told the Hunan Economic Television Station. “I said, ‘why didn’t you inform me?’ I thought she got lost.”
Then Su called her husband. Hu was the first to hear their daughter was missing. “[My wife] immediately called me, and asked me where our child was,” Hu told Hunan Economic Television Station. “I immediately remembered, I need to go look [for her].” Only then did Hu find their daughter in the back of the car, but it was too late.
Qi Qi was laying on the floor behind the driver’s seat, with her face purple and no vital signs, according to the Hunan Economic Television Station. The temperature reached 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degree Celsius) that day.
Qi Qi’s parents blamed the school for not contacting them when she did not show up in class. Hu said the school should have been more responsible. “Sometimes when we go on vacation and don’t come in, the school will always send us a message and ask about our kid. Why was it today that they didn’t contact us?” Hu told the Hunan Economic Television Station.
“I think they have a bigger responsibility in this. If they called me, I could have found the problem,” Hu said.
The local Ministry of Education said on April 10 that the parents and the school reached a settlement. The kindergarten agreed to pay 32,000 yuan ($4,800) as compensation to the family.