A little boy who fell asleep during a day out at a holiday programme was mistakenly locked inside a van in a windowless garage for up to 40 minutes - prompting Auckland Council to implement new measures to stop it from happening again.
Solo mum Melissa Moe had been taking her sons Ivana, 7, and 6-year-old Aiden to a Auckland Council school holiday programme at Te Matariki Clendon Community Centre, in South Auckland, since last year.
The boys were among a group of children who visited the Museum of Transport and Technology, or Motat, on Tuesday.
Moe told the Herald she dropped her sons off at the centre about 7.45am that day.
She was due to collect them at 6pm, but finished work early and turned up at the centre about 4.10pm instead.
"All I saw was my older son, Ivana, coming up towards me. When he got up to where I was, I asked him: 'Where's Aiden'?"
Ivana ran to check the boys' bathroom, but his little brother was not there.
Moe then approached a staff member, before other supervisors gathered and split up in search of Aiden.
"I ran out ... and had a look around the outside of the rec centre and couldn't see him anywhere.
"I was pretty much bawling my eyes out by the time I came back inside."
After about 10 minutes, Aiden was found inside a locked van in a windowless garage.
Aiden would later explain he fell asleep in the back seat, on the way back from Motat, and woke up to find himself in pitch black darkness.
"His eyes were bloodshot and was quite visibly upset. He just ran straight to me and buried his head in my stomach, still crying,'' Moe said.
"He said he just started screaming and crying, banging on the window trying to open the window. No one could hear him. He was crying for someone to come help him.
"He said after he'd done that, he actually ended up going to the back of the van and sat down and was starting to think about me and my other son and my daughter.
"To me, it sounded like he was just about to give up,'' she said through tears.
A staff member told the Herald Aiden would have been locked inside for just over 40 minutes because they had arrived back about 3.30pm.
The Clendon holiday programme was now due to make changes to its policies - including carrying out a more physical inspection and passenger headcount.
The staff member who drove the van was very remorseful and said she would be calling Aiden's mum to apologise again.
"When I went and did my last check, I didn't see him in the back. Because he's quite small, I guess I just missed him.
"I looked under the seats and looked above the seats, but he must've been lying on the seat. I just didn't go to the back."
Auckland Council's leisure operations manager, Garth Dawson, said they wanted to reassure parents that, as well as established safeguarding protocols, drivers would now have to carry out a more comprehensive physical inspection of their vehicles and a passenger count to ensure no one was left on board.
"We take our responsibility for the care and welfare of all the children in our programmes very seriously, so we would like to apologise unreservedly to the family involved for the distress this incident has caused them."
Moe said she hoped the programme would learn from the situation so that such an incident did not happen again.
"If I had gone later or the normal time to pick them up, I may not have been picking him up."
Hundreds of children attend the council's 12 holiday programmes.
A law expert said the holiday programme was responsible for children once parents dropped them off.
But exactly what they would be responsible for also depended on what was agreed between parents and a particular holiday programme - for example, a signed form acknowledging that accidents may happen.