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Autopsy results announced as suspect detained in death of locked-in-school bus boy in Hanoi

Thursday, August 29, 2019, 10:38 GMT+7
Autopsy results announced as suspect detained in death of locked-in-school bus boy in Hanoi
The Gateway School in Cau Giay District, Hanoi. Photo: Nam Tran / Tuoi Tre

Prosecutors in Hanoi on Tuesday announced the result of an autopsy on a local first grader who was locked inside a school bus for nine hours in early August and approved a decision to place a woman allegedly responsible for his death under detention for a criminal investigation.

Le Hoang L., 6, was picked up by a school bus at around 7:00 am on August 6, his second day at the Gateway School in Cau Giay District, his parents said.

Past 4:00 pm the same day, the boy was removed stiff and motionless from the 16-seater van, where he had purportedly spent nine hours being locked inside, according to CCTV footage acquired and seen by Tuoi Tre News.

The Gateway School management said in a statement later that same day that L. was still alive when he was found and only died after he was taken to a nearby hospital.

Post-mortem results appear to show otherwise, Dinh Minh Tao, chief prosecutor of the Cau Giay District People’s Procuracy, said on Tuesday.

Dinh Minh Tao, chief prosecutor of the Cau Giay District People’s Procuracy in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Giang Long / Tuoi Tre

Dinh Minh Tao, chief prosecutor of the Cau Giay District People’s Procuracy in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Giang Long / Tuoi Tre

Although the complete autopsy report cannot be made public at the moment due to the ongoing investigation, Tao said it was clear no evidence of any external force was found on the boy’s body.

L. died from circulatory and respiratory failure due to heat stroke as a result of being in a confined space, Tao said, citing information from Hanoi police.

The time of death was around 9:00 am to 12:00 pm on August 6, which means the young victim died after two to five hours of being left inside the hot vehicle, he added.

The prosecutor also addressed another detail that caused confusion to surround the boy’s death: he was wearing a grey-white T-shirt when found although he had put on a red T-shirt to school that same morning.

The red T-shirt was found balled up and dampened with sweat inside the boy’s backpack.

“Further forensic tests and investigation are needed to determine whose sweat it is or who put the shirt in the backpack,” Tao said.

Further investigation is also needed to verify statements made by the school bus supervisor, Nguyen Bich Quy, regarding the state of the vehicle at the time of finding L.’s body, he added.

Nguyen Bich Quy is seen in this photo: Photo: Chi Tue / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Bich Quy is seen in this photo: Photo: Chi Tue / Tuoi Tre

Quy, 54, was placed under a three-month detention on Tuesday evening after police launched criminal proceedings against her on an involuntary manslaughter charge, according to the People’s Procuracy of Cau Giay District.

She faces one to five years behind bars if convicted, according to the Penal Code of Vietnam.

Quy’s detention came as a surprise, as her attorney had told the media that same morning she would not be detained during the probe against her.

According to Vietnamese law, a suspect can only be detained in cases involving a serious crime or when the subject poses a risk of hindering the investigation if they remain free. Involuntary manslaughter is not considered a serious crime, given the lenient maximum sentence of the crime.

A 16-seater Ford Transit van, similar to the one in which a first grader was neglected for nine hours on August 6, drops off students outside the Gateway School in Hanoi. Photo: Chi Tue / Tuoi Tre

A 16-seater Ford Transit van, similar to the one in which a first grader was neglected for nine hours on August 6, drops off students outside the Gateway School in Hanoi. Photo: Chi Tue / Tuoi Tre

Quy was in charge of attending to the school bus that transported 13 Gateway School students - including L. - to school on the morning of August 6, her only second day at work.

After picking up 13 students on the 16-seater van, Quy and the driver dropped off only 12 of them at the school, forgetting L. in the vehicle, according to the district prosecutor’s office.

Quy has maintained that she did inspect the vehicle after all students had got off that morning and did not notice any student, or any belongings, left on the school bus.

A police vehicle is seen outside the residence of Nguyen Bich Quy, who was placed under detention on August 27, 2019. Photo: Giang Long / Tuoi Tre

A police vehicle is seen outside the residence of Nguyen Bich Quy, who was placed under detention on August 27, 2019. Photo: Giang Long / Tuoi Tre

Prosecutors are still looking into possible criminal violations on the driver’s and the school’s parts, Tao said.

Gateway School failed to inform L.’s parents of his absence until past 4:00 pm despite it being reported by the boy’s homeroom teacher shortly after class started in the morning, Hanoi officials said on August 7.

The school bus driver, 53-year-old Doan Quy Phien, also failed to double-check his vehicle after dropping off the students, prosecutors found.

Both Quy and Phien are being investigated for their negligence, “due to overconfidence and recklessness,” in conducting and supervising the operation of the school bus.

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