HOUSTON (KTRK/CNN) – The grieving parents of a 3-year-old boy found dead in a hot daycare van are suing the facility for more than $1 million in damages for mental anguish and burial expenses.
Raymond and Dikeisha Whitlock-Pryer say they're living a nightmare after their son, 3-year-old Raymond 'R.J.' Pryer Jr., died after he was left inside a daycare van July 20 for more than 4 hours.
"Anytime it's hot outside or somebody says it's hot, I think about my son. Anytime somebody says, 'Drink some water. It's hot,' I think about my son," Raymond Pryer said.
Every single minute of every day is a painful reminder of what's missing for R.J.'s parents, whose attorney announced Tuesday the couple filed a $1 million civil lawsuit against the owner of Discovering Me Academy in Houston.
The lawsuit also cites the bus driver and chaperones as negligent in making sure their son was off the bus after returning from a field trip with 28 other students.
"If this daycare center had done its job right and if it had followed its own procedures, this nightmare would never have happened," said Larry Wilson, the couple's attorney, with Lanier Law Firm.
It wasn't until Raymond Pryer went to pick up his son that anyone at the daycare discovered something was wrong.
"They told me he had been picked up already, but he wasn't. So, I looked around and looked around for him, and when I saw the firetruck, I just took off running to the back because I had that feeling something was wrong," Raymond Pryer said.
R.J. was found unresponsive in the daycare van and was pronounced dead at the hospital. Authorities say the temperature inside the van reached at least 113 degrees during the 4 hours R.J. was left inside.
R.J.'s parents are pushing for laws and procedural changes that will hold daycares accountable for the safety of children, particularly when it comes to getting in and out of vehicles. They say they do not want any other parents to suffer a tragic loss like theirs.
"He had his little jerseys and his little hats and all of this different stuff he never got to – nobody needs to go through what we're going through," Raymond Pryer said.
Authorities are still investigating what happened. No criminal charges have been filed at this time.
According to records, the daycare was cited for several violations involving their van in 2015. One violation included not having an electronic child safety alarm, which is used to notify a driver that a child was left in the vehicle.