JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An Arlington mother feared the worst Tuesday when she went to pick up her 5-year-old daughter from an after-school center, only to find out she wasn't there and no one knew where she was.
After a massive search by police, Theresa Coyle's daughter, Summer, was found safe later that afternoon.
Still, Coyle said the fact that her daughter was unaccounted for for about two hours is unacceptable. She said the story could have ended much worse than it did.
"It was the worst feeling ever," Coyle said.
She said it felt like an eternity when her daughter went missing.
"Just when I get there, they're like, 'She's not here,'" Coyle said.
Coyle said it was only Summer's second day of school at Woodland Acres Elementary. She was supposed to go to day care at Lone Star Learning Center, also known as Tadpoles and Toads Child Care, after school.
Coyle said the center's bus driver, who was supposed to pick her up, marked her as being there, but she wasn't.
Day care workers didn't tell Coyle they didn't have the girl until she came to pick her up hours later, Coyle said.
"The owner was like, 'Maybe she walked home or caught the bus,'" Coyle said. "I was like, 'What are you talking about? She's 5. I hope she didn't walk home.'"
Frantic and worried the worst had happened, Coyle called everyone possible, including police. She said dozens of officers and a helicopter searched the Arlington neighborhoods for her daughter.
It turns out Summer got on the wrong bus, one for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida down the road, Coyle said.
Officials there said they followed proper procedures.
"As roll was called, a child rose and joined other Club members on our bus," the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida said in a statement. "Upon arrival to the Club, our staff immediately recognized that this child was not a member. The child was safely brought back to Woodland Acres Elementary."
So Summer was found safe, but her mom's still very upset.
The elementary school's principal has since apologized, and now school district officials say teachers will be more careful to make sure students get on the right bus, saying they'll check and double check.
As far as the Lone Star Learning Center, which Coyle is upset with most, workers there said they had no response Thursday, saying the owner, who was the only one who could talk about the incident, wasn't there.
"That's not good enough," Coyle said.
The Department of Children and Families is investigating. According to DCF records, the day care center has had minor violations in the past, including at least one involving transportation, but they were all rectified.
In the meantime, Coyle said she has pulled her daughter out of the day care, and Summer will now be picked up by a close family friend, that way, Coyle said, she knows she'll be safe.
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