Young Man With Autism Dies After Being Left in a Van

(Photo by Lars Plougmann/Flickr)

Woods Services in Langhorne, Pennsylvania has been a home to people with developmental disabilities since 1913.  People with developmental disabilities receive educational and therapeutic services at Woods, as well as reside there.

On July 24th, their reputation for greatness was tarnished when Brian Nevins, a 20-year-old with severe autism, died of hyperthermia after being left in a parked van for 5 hours.  Nevins was nonverbal.

Officials believe that Nevins died within 90 minutes due to the extreme heatBucks County Coroner Joseph Campbell estimated that temperatures reached somewhere between 125 and 130 degrees in the van.

Nevins, along with three other Woods residents, was off campus with two counselors on a field trip.  When they returned, the driver dropped off one of the counselors along with the two residents the counselor was responsible for.  The driver then parked the van where she always does, and dropped off her keys.  An hour afterwards, a nurse went looking for Nevins to give him his medication.

Unable to find him, the staff began searching for him in the surrounding buildings.  They checked the vehicles next, where they found Nevins in the back of the van, lying down.

Authorities were not sure if the van was locked from the inside.  Robert Schultz, who is the director of the Center for Autism Research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said: “But if they had been in the vehicle many times, and it wasn’t locked, it’s hard to imagine [Nevins not being able to let himself out].”

Both counselors who were present on the field trip have been suspended.

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