A driver failed to follow procedure and abandoned a 4-year-old girl alone on a school bus for three hours in frigid Windsor, Canada, on Monday, Nov. 20, reports the CBC.
The fallout from the incident has prompted policy amendments at the bus company to further reduce the likelihood of something like this happening again, according to CTV.
While the distressed mother launched a desperate search for her missing daughter, young Ellery Chartier-Molinari sat shivering and alone inside the bus, far away from the day care where she was supposed to be, reports CBC.
The kindergartner got on the bus and set off for day care. What she didn’t do is get off at her stop because she fell asleep. The driver finished his route and left the bus and child locked up in the bus yard. What he didn’t do is perform a child check, which is standard company protocol at CG Pearson Bus Lines, the driver’s now former employer.
According to Pearson Transportation Manager Ryan Pearson, CBC reported that company policy is for drivers to check the bus after “each section of their run.”
The driver responsible for the young girl’s traumatic experience was terminated on Tuesday, Nov. 21.
“We will do everything in our power to make sure this never happens again,” said Pearson, according to CBC.
The incident sparked a passenger safety policy review at the company, which is exploring ways to make it easier for parents to get in touch in case of emergencies. Pearson also now requires drivers to radio dispatch to confirm that they have carried out a child check.
Policies like these could have saved Ellery’s mother, JoAnne Chartier, some anguish.
“If there’s a child trapped on the bus because your employee didn’t check, you should be reachable,” said Chartier, according to CBC. “I’m glad they’re doing something now, but for us it’s too late.”
Chartier said that when she went to pick up her daughter at day care and was informed by staff that Ellery hadn’t got off the bus that day, she panicked.
“It was a parent’s worst nightmare,” she said, reported CBC. “I had no idea where she was or even how to find her because the bus company was unreachable.”
Chartier said she was unable to reach anyone at CG Pearson Bus Lines directly and contacted the police.
She credits her sister’s outreach to a Facebook group of “about 5,000” moms for finally getting through to the company. It turns out one of the women in the group worked with the company and helped put Chartier in touch.
Moments before police officers and family arrived at the bus yard, Pearson employees found the girl, according to the CBC report.
Shaking and cold, Ellery was “sitting on the bus and was being quiet because you’re supposed to be quiet on the bus,” said her mother, reported CBC.
“I was crying, we gave each other a big hug and she wiped my tears.”
According to her mother, Ellery had some trouble falling asleep and was nervous about getting on the bus the following day.
Chartier is planning to take legal action in connection with the incident.
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