Boy, 9, left alone at school district bus barn; bus driver on le - WNEM TV 5

Boy, 9, left alone at school district bus barn; bus driver on leave

Posted: Updated: Jan 9, 2014 10:50 AM

The parents of a 9-year-old boy with autism say their son was left on a school bus alone for nearly an hour. Now they want changes made so it doesn't happen to another child.

Ashley Ellefson said she walked her son Lyfe outside to catch his bus at around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. The bus stops right in front of her family's home along Century Drive Northeast in Albany, she said.

"Put him on the bus, buckled him in, gave him a kiss goodbye. They take off," she said.

Ellefson said she thought everything was fine until she got a call from employees at Timber Ridge School more than an hour later. Lyfe goes to school there. School employees asked her if her son was going to show up for school, Ellefson said.

"What do you mean is he coming to school today? I put him on the bus," Ellefson said she told the person on the phone. "At that point as a parent, your heart sinks. And it's panic and fear and everything terrible and worst-case scenario pops in your head."

After hanging up the phone, Ellefson said she and her boyfriend Jeff made several calls to the school and the bus barn to try to figure out where their son was.

About 10 minutes later, Ellefson said she got word from district employees that Lyfe was found alone on his school bus that was parked at the district's bus barn. He had been there for almost an hour, she and a district spokesman said.

"They parked the bus and walked away and forgot him. And that should not have happened," Ellefson said.

Ellefson said a district employee apologized to her and her boyfriend when they went to pick Lyfe up from the bus barn.

A spokesman for the Greater Albany Public School District said bus drivers are supposed to check their buses at the end of their routes to make sure all their students got off and there are no issues with their bus. The driver who picked Lyfe up never did that, the spokesman said. 

"I think I would have asked him 'Why? Why couldn't you have taken 10 extra seconds to walk the bus?'" Ellefson asked.

Ellefson said she has had previous bus-related issues with her 6-year-old son, who rides a different bus. 

She believes more checks need to be put in place, and there needs to be more accountability to make sure no child is left behind again, she said.

"I'm terrified to put him on that bus. Is he going to make it?" Ellefson asked. 

Lyfe's grandmother took him to school on Wednesday. He rode the bus home from school that same afternoon without any problems, Ellefson said.

Ellefson said she is extremely proud of her son's actions on Tuesday morning.

"I sat him down and said I was very proud of him, and he did the right thing by staying on the bus," Ellefson said while crying.

The district's school buses have GPS systems, a district spokesman said. The driver in this case did not deviate from his regular route, he added.

The man is an experienced driver, the spokesman said. He's now on paid administrative leave while the district conducts an investigation, he added.

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