'Tragic accident' claims young life at North Shore daycare

By Vaimoana Tapalaeo, Ophelia Buckleton

Auckland's Malayali Indian community is mourning one of its "little angels", who died in a "tragic accident" at a daycare centre on Auckland's North Shore.

Friends and family of Aldrich Viju, 4, gathered at his home tonight, said a family friend.

Others who know the family took to social media to pay their respects.

One poster wrote: "No words to express how sorry we are for your loss. Just a fleeting visit on this plane from a special angel".

Auckland Malayali Samajam Incorporated, a charity celebrating the South Indian ethnic group's culture, said the organisation's president and members of its executive committee visited the family's home to support them "in their ineffable grief and trauma".

The group was organising special prayers to be said for the youngster, it said in a Facebook post.

Police were called to Angels Childcare Centre on Anzac St, Takapuna just after 2pm, following what police describe as a likely accident on playground equipment.

The friend of the family, who did not wish to be identified, said last night that his wife was among those visiting the young boy's parents and 2-year-old sister at their North Shore home.

The man said the boy's mother was three to four months pregnant.

Police carried out a scene examination and spoke to witnesses yesterday. The matter will be referred to the coroner, police said.

A WorkSafe spokesman confirmed it had been advised of the incident and was making "initial inquiries".

Bouquets were being laid at the childcare facility yesterday evening and staff were seen by victim support counsellors.

Family members, including the boy's parents, were at the playground for some time yesterday afternoon before a hearse arrived just before 4.30pm.

They stood solemnly with the boy's father as it pulled up towards the playground, then gathered around the hearse and hugged.

Aldrich Viju, aged 4, died in the tragic accident at the North Shore daycare centre today afternoon. Photo / Supplied
Aldrich Viju, aged 4, died in the tragic accident at the North Shore daycare centre today afternoon. Photo / Supplied

One man clasped his hands in prayer and appeared to be giving a blessing as the others bowed their heads briefly.

The little boy's family, originally from India, were members of a tight-knit Indian community on the North Shore and had lived in the area for some time, said the family friend.

"It's really sad."

Several police officers and two ambulances were at the scene yesterday afternoon and several police vehicles lined the road.

A number of parents, many of whom looked distressed, arrived to collect their children.

Staff members stood at the entrance, where police tape had been put up. They spoke briefly to each parent as they arrived.

Sometimes they hugged while others looked shocked.

A visibly upset staff member told the Weekend Herald she could not comment at that time.

The Early Childhood Council said it was shocked and deeply saddened by the incident yesterday.

Angel's Childcare Centre on Anzac St Takapun. Photo / Moana Tapaleao
Angel's Childcare Centre on Anzac St Takapun. Photo / Moana Tapaleao

Council chief executive Peter Reynolds described the death as "one of those things that sends a shiver down your spine".

"We send our love and support to the child's family and friends, to the parents of other children at the centre, and to those who manage and teach at the centre," he said.

Reynolds said he did not know what happened or why, and was not in a position to comment on the specifics of the incident.

The council will be reading publicly available reports on the accident investigation to see if there might be lessons for other centres, said Reynolds.

"But right now all we are doing is feeling very, very sad for all involved, and especially for the family of the child.

"The thoughts of all early childhood centre owners, managers and teachers will be with them tonight."

The incident follows injuries to four children after a tree fell on a playground at Discoveries Educare in Newmarket, Auckland on November 8.

Angels Childcare Centre is a privately owned and operated daycare, which cares for children up to 5.

Its website states: "We believe that children develop a sense of confidence and belonging as they learn of their unique identity and of God's love for them within the framework of Christian values."

It is approved by the Ministry of Education to have up to 70 children at any one time, including up to 25 babies, according to ChildForum Early Childhood National Network.

Angels has another branch in New Lynn, West Auckland.

- NZ Herald

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