Thursday, August 5, 2010

PA: State official calls autistic man's death 'totally avoidable'

The state official whose agency regulates the Bucks County facility where a severely autistic man died in a sweltering van called the death "totally avoidable" and said his staff had accelerated its investigation into the case.

Richard Gold, deputy secretary for the Office of Children, Youth and Families, said inspectors had been at Woods Services' campus in Langhorne almost every day since Bryan Nevins' death on July 24.

In an interview Wednesday, Gold said his office expected to release preliminary findings this week. He declined to elaborate, but was blunt in his assessment.

"In my opinion," Gold said, "this was a totally avoidable tragedy."


Bucks County prosecutors on Tuesday charged a counselor at the facility with felony neglect of a care-dependent person and other counts.

They said Stacey Strauss of Philadelphia was responsible for Nevins when she and another counselor escorted him and three other Woods clients to and from Sesame Place that Saturday.

According to a probable-cause affidavit, Nevins, whose parents say he had the mental ability of a toddler, was left in the back of the van after it returned to the campus around 12:30 p.m.

Nearly five hours passed before staff realized he was missing. They found his body across the backseat of the van, his arms folded.

Authorities say Nevins probably died within an hour from sitting in the torrid heat.

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