Down’s Syndrome boy, nine, spends six hours locked on school bus – after teachers, bus driver and carers all forgot about him – Story on Mail Online and Mirror Online
Council which runs bus service has apologised and launched an investigation
The incident is so serious it has been referred to the police
Despite apologies, little boy’s mum is concerned it could happen again
Reuben can only communicate in ‘sign language’ and was left strapped to his seat ‘while driver went home for lunch’
Sharon Wilson came to Featureworld after her son Reuben experienced a very traumatic event. Reuben, who has down’s syndrome was locked on a council’s school bus for six hours – after teachers and bus staff forgot to check he’d got off.
The little boy, aged nine, was strapped into his seat, and only discovered when the driver came back from his lunchbreak.
Sharon, 45, a lecturer claims her son – who cannot speak and communicates using sign language – is now frightened to step on the bus. She wanted to ensure such a nightmare never happened again and although the council, which runs the bus service, has apologised, decided she wanted to make her story public
Reuben’s story was placed on Mail Online and Mirror Online. Sharon also went on to do interviews with her local paper, the Bristol Post and local television.
She said: ‘The night after it happened Reuben signed to me, ‘Bus, big wait, Reuben sad mummy’. The thought of Reuben sat there, literally abandoned, for hours on end has given me sleepless nights.
‘Since the incident Reuben has become really clingy. I feel so angry and upset. I just can’t understand how he was left sat on the bus for so long and why no one checked he’d got off.’
The nightmare journey began when shortly before Christmas, Mrs Wilson waved her son off on the bus at 7.45am as usual on the hour-long trip to Fosse Way special education school in Bristol.
‘When Reuben first began taking the bus to school eight months ago, I was really worried. He’s such a sweet adorable and trusting little boy. He can’t speak and can only use Makaton gestures and signs.
‘But after a few weeks I relaxed and there has never been any problem before.’
The first sign anything was wrong was around an hour after Reuben should have got to school.
She says: ‘I was at work when I received a generic text message from the school saying they noted Reuben wasn’t there today. But as he had been off from school the day before, I thought it related to that. I didn’t query it as obviously he’d gone off to school fine.
‘A carer on the bus is supposed to check everyone is off, a teacher is supposed to tick everyone off on the register and the driver is supposed to check there is no one on the bus too. The last thing I expected was that all of these checks hadn’t been done and Reuben had been left on the bus.’
However, at 2.30pm she got a phone call from the school to say Reuben had been found by the bus driver still strapped to his seat in the vehicle.
‘I was shocked. The bus driver had actually gone for a lunch break, parked the bus and left Reuben on it while he went for something to eat. He only discovered him when he went back to the bus for the afternoon school run.
‘I immediately left work and raced to see Reuben. When I saw him he just wanted to be hugged. It was so distressing.’
Mrs Wilson, who lives with Reuben’s stepdad Chris Gillis, 45, a training manager, adds: ‘Reuben has started back at school and the school were great informing me when he’d arrived and when he’d set off school to home.
‘But a new driver recently lost his way. The bus was delayed for 30 minutes and no one rang. By the time Reuben turned up I was in floods of tears. The school is fantastic and everyone apologised verbally but I can’t understand why all these checks are not being made.
‘I want the council to review their policies so this never happens again.’
A spokesperson for Bath & North East Somerset Council, said it is now assisting Avon & Somerset Police with an investigation into the incident. ‘The council has already spoken not the family and apologised for the distressed caused,’ he said, ‘This is a terrible event for the child and his family.
‘The council fully understands the gravity of the situation and will want to know how this could have occurred in order to ensure that this can never happen again.’
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