Daycare involved in fatal crash cited for past safety problems - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Daycare involved in fatal crash cited for past safety problems

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Heavenly Angels location on Dixie Highway. Heavenly Angels location on Dixie Highway.
The van after the accident Tuesday afternoon. The van after the accident Tuesday afternoon.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Police say it could be weeks before investigators know what caused the crash. But a WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Investigation uncovered Heavenly Angels Childcare vans have been cited for safety violations long before the deadly accident Tuesday.

The problems were bad enough Kentucky stripped Heavenly Angels of its license to transport children at a previous location.

The only angel left at Heavenly Angels Childcare's former location on West Hill Street in Louisville is the one on the window. The center closed earlier this year under scrutiny from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Owner Lavonia Lewars didn't want to talk about the past problems when reached by phone Wednesday.

"I'm just praying for my kids and the one that I lost and focusing on comforting the kids and their families at the hospital," Lewars said. "As soon as I know anything I will let you all know."

The WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Department first brought issues at Lewars' daycare center to light in May 2011. At that time state investigators had cited Heavenly Angels for dozens of safety violations, many that related to the safety of children onboard the daycare's vans.

The violations included a lack of required inspections to the tires and a child left sleeping in the back of a hot van for almost an hour on a 86 degree day. The child survived, but the Cabinet for Health and Family Services had seen enough.

Records show in August 2010, the cabinet suspended the transportation license for Heavenly Angels Child Care at the west end Louisville location. But the state says the owner, and her staff, ignored that order.

Less than 3 months later investigators caught Heavenly Angels driving nine children from the West Hill location in one of their vans despite that suspended transportation license. Again investigators cited Lewars. After she unsuccessfully applied to have the transportation license re-instated in May 2011, Lewars closed the West Hill center and moved all her resources to her second location on Dixie Highway.

That's the same center the daycare van was from when it crashed into a tree, killing a Heavenly Angels worker and injuring all 14 children on board. Wednesday the state said Lewars opened the Dixie Highway location days before she lost her transportation license on West Hill. Gwenda Bond, spokesperson for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said the West Hill revocation did not apply to the Dixie Highway daycare because Lewars applied for and received a second license.

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