Some Calgary parents are demanding answers after going through what they’re calling “the most terrifying experience of their lives.”
Their six-year-old boy, Gabe Yarema, who has special needs, didn’t get off his school bus on his return from kindergarten Wednesday.
“It was quite a frantic hour or so to figure out where he was,” Gabe’s mother Ann Yarema said.
The boy’s parents say when they called to inquire about their missing son, the bus company told them his mom had picked him up.
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“I thought, ‘oh that’s interesting because I’m 25 kilometres away and I certainly didn’t pick him up,’” Yarema said. “We were frantically wondering where our son was, wondering if there was one of the moms that possibly picked him up, but thought that was highly unusual and that they would contact us to say that they had our son.”
The Yaremas said this went on for almost an hour before they received a call from their son’s bus driver.
“About 50 minutes after our son’s bus was supposed to arrive, Dave [Gabe’s father] had gotten a call from the bus driver saying that she had our son on the bus,” Yarema said. “I guess he had fallen asleep and she didn’t do her usual check to make sure that the bus was empty.”
Eventually their son woke up and alerted the bus driver that he was still aboard the bus, they said. The Yaremas had to make arrangements with the driver to set up a place they could pick him up, Gabe’s mom said.
“The protocol is to usually go back to the school of origin and pick up your child there, and in this case it was a little different,” Gabe’s father said. “I thought, ‘wow have the policies changed or something?’”
Gabe was, for the most part, no worse for wear after his ordeal, other than being a little hungry.
“Our son is pretty amazing,” Dave said. “We’ve done a lot of hard work making sure that our kids are fairly secure on their own and traveling…He just took it in stride and he really enjoyed his nap.”
When it comes to the bus company, the Yaremas believe it needs to make sure its drivers understand the policies.
“I feel quite sad about the bus driver,” Ann said. “I’m not holding any hard feelings toward her at all. I think that it shows that Southland needs to train their drivers better.”
Southland Transportation issued the following statement Thursday:
“SOUTHLAND Transportation has completed its investigation into this matter and the driver has been dealt with accordingly for not following proper post-trip procedure. Student safety is paramount to our organization and we took immediate action to remedy this situation, ensuring transparency with all parties. Although this is an isolated incident and the child was never left unattended, we take matters such as this very seriously and have procedures in place to prevent such occurrences.”
Gabe’s parents said they still hadn’t received an explanation directly from Southland Transportation Thursday afternoon.
But they’re happy Gabe got home safely but hope this never happens to another family.
“The worst nightmare, of course, crosses your mind and thankfully in our case it all worked out well,” Ann said. “But it sure was a stressful day for both of us.”
–With files from Paul Rodgers
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