Logan Starling was a small boy with a huge personality. His father, Andrew Starling, called the 4-year-old “a high-strung, energetic young boy.” “He was my little Logo on the go go,” Starling said. “He was hyper. He would hop around. He would act like a kangaroo.”
Logan died Friday after he was found in a hot SUV outside Elite Preparatory Academy,a private school on Oak Ridge Road south of Orlando where he attended Pre-K. The case remains under investigation and authorities have released few details. Meanwhile, Logan’s family is left to wonder: why did it take so long to realize he was not in school and instead in the back of an SUV in the hot Florida sun? “He’s not a child who’s sitting in the corner quiet and you overlook him,” said Mary Squires, Logan’s great aunt. “If he’s there, you’re gonna know it. He’s all character. You would notice if he wasn’t there.” School officials declined to answer questions from the Orlando Sentinel about their absence policy, telling a reporter who went to the school Tuesday to leave the property. The principal, Hong Steele, told Channel 9-WFTV the teacher did notice Logan was not there, but thought nothing of it because he was sick the day before. Authorities were called to Elite Preparatory Academy about 2:30 p.m. Friday after Logan was found. He was taken to the fire station across the street and then to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating Logan’s death and has not filed any charges in the case. An incident report released Wednesday by the agency wasalmost entirely redacted.
The Department of Children and Families is also investigating the incident but declined to release any more details.
In separate interviews, Logan’s parents, who are no longer together, said they were not at the school that day, but have spoken with detectives about what happened.
It’s unknown what time they arrived at Elite Prep, which has about 300 students. The school has a day-care program that starts at 7 a.m.
His mother, Shelby Hester, said Logan didn’t want to go to school and may have sneaked back into the SUV unnoticed. But Hester doesn’t understand why no onerealized Logan wasn’t with the other children.
Hester said the fiancée told her it wasn’t until 2:30 p.m. that another teacher asked the fiancée why Logan wasn’t in school. That’s when the fiancée ran out to the parking lot and saw Logan unconscious in the back of the SUV.
Hester wants to know why no one at the school asked the fiancée about Logan’s absence sooner.
“[The teacher] didn’t get the curiosity to ask, ‘Where’s Logan? Is he OK today? Is he sick?’” Hester said.
Starling and Hester have split custody of Logan and his sister, and they were with their father the night before the incident. Starling’s fiancée took the kids to school every day when the kids were staying with them.
Starling said his fiancée has been “in hiding” since the incident and not willing to speak to the media.
A substitute teacher was in Logan’s class at the beginning of the day who may not have been familiar with Logan or his siblings, Starling said.
A photo-montage video the school posted on YouTube, set to the song “Forever Young,” showed the smiling, blond-haired Logan posing with Elmo, Barney and his art projects. The school has also started a GoFundme page for Logan’s family.
His mother said Logan loved watching the SunRail trains and imagined they were Thomas the Tank Engine. She planned to take him for a ride. Now she’s preparing for his funeral.
“He had the biggest heart of anyone I have known or have ever met or seen,” Hester said. “It devastates me because now he has left us behind.”
Meanwhile, Squires said she hopes something positive can come from her great nephew’s death: a law that would require day cares and preschools to call parents if a child is unexpectedly absent.
“Name it [the] ‘Logan’s Roll Call’ phone call requirement,” Squires said. “It didn’t save him, [but] … his death may bring life to others who would die alone, scared and cooking in a parked automobile.”
Janette Fennell, president and co-founder of KidsAndCars.org, which tracks hot car deaths, said day cares should call the emergency contact number for any child who isn’t dropped off within 15 minutes of their regular drop off time.
“With that scenario literally hundreds of children would still be alive today,” she said.
She likened what Squires proposed to the student-absence line used by most K-12 public schools. Fennell said many hot-car deaths are the result of someone forgetting to drop off their child at a day care.
That scenario was cited in another hot-car death near Sanford the same day that Logan died: After 1-year-old Kit Pollard died in an SUV, her mother Kailyn Pollard told detectives she had forgotten to take the girl to day care that morning before going to work.
Pollard is facing a manslaughter charge.