A school bus driver in Edmonton has been fired after a 13-year-old boy was left on his school bus Monday afternoon as temperatures dipped well into the low -20s.
Cash McGuire, 13, said he was watching a movie with his headphones on as he rode the bus home from H.E. Beriault school — about an hour-long journey.
The Grade 8 student said he doesn’t always take the bus home from school, but on Monday he did. It’s a smaller school bus with about six kids on the route.
Cash gets off the bus in the Westmount area, but the driver didn’t make the last stop Monday afternoon. When the bus eventually came to a stop, Cash looked up from his movie and said he had no idea where he was.
“It just stopped there and so I looked over my seat and I saw the bus driver wasn’t there,” Cash said Monday evening.
“The bus wasn’t turned on and I was wondering why. I got up and I walked around the bus to see where he was but he wasn’t there — until I saw him walking down the sidewalk.”
The doors to the bus were locked, so Cash called his dad.
“He said, ‘Dad, the bus driver turned the bus off and got off and left.’ I asked him where he was and he said he didn’t know,” Cash’s dad, Shane McGuire said.
Shane walked his son through how to pull up his location on Google maps. He was in the Granville neighbourhood — about 25 minutes away from his home. Shane told his son to call 911 as he made his way over to pick him up.
Shane arrived about 25 minutes later and helped his son out of the bus.
“He didn’t know how to get out of the bus so I instructed him to open up the driver’s door and unlock it to get out. I got him in my van where he was warm,” Shane said.
“I got to the point where my fingers were starting to freeze and I almost got a runny nose,” Cash said, adding he felt a bit nervous being on the bus alone.
Shane said called the bus company, Stock Transportation, and a representative explained they have a child safety check process in place where the driver is required to walk to the back of the bus and hit a button in order to turn off the bus.
He said he’s not sure how his son was missed.
“If it wasn’t as cold as today I probably wouldn’t have been as excited. but because it is a lot colder — and in a bus, you’re in a tin can — it’s not very warm.”
At around 4 p.m. Monday, Edmonton’s temperature hovered about -26 C, according to Environment Canada. With the wind chill, it felt more like -35. An extreme cold warning was in place at the time.
‘It’s very concerning,’ says Edmonton Catholic Schools
The company hired by Edmonton Catholic Schools, Stock Transportation, said it has a policy where school bus drivers have to do a safety check that takes place after a route is completed. The bus driver didn’t do that and has since been fired. They added that these incidents are rare.
Assistant Supt. John Fiacco said the board has a zero-tolerance policy on this, and bus drivers must be present when students are on board. He said this circumstance comes down to human error.
“The driver failed to drop off the student at the last stop and carried on to their place of residence and forgetting there was a student in the vehicle at that time,” he said.
“It’s very concerning, very upsetting. As an educator and as a parent, it’s troublesome. It’s a situation we do not want to ever hear about.
“Once we were informed of this human error, we contacted the carrier and informed them that according to our policy, we do not want this driver driving this route anymore. And they informed us at that time that they had followed through and terminated that driver.”
Edmonton Police issued a violation to the driver “for failing to allow safe disembarkment of a student at a safe time and place” under the Commercial Vehicle Safety Regulation of the Traffic Safety Act.
Shane said the bus driver ended up coming back to the bus about 90 minutes later and apologized. Shane said he will likely drive his son to and from school for the next little while.