FORT GREENE, Brooklyn — When the school bus hadn’t arrived by 6 p.m. on March 12, Sheryll Chavez began to worry. Her grandson Dominic Czaplinski, a 6-year-old boy with autism and ADHD, had been on the bus since 4:30, when he was picked up at his school in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Sheryll called the matron on the bus.
“I said 'where are you? He should have been home by now.' She said 'I don’t know.'”
It turns out there was a substitute bus driver that day.
An hour later, the matron texted Dominic’s mother.
“I am so sorry," the text read. "We have only one child before Dominic. The driver said in about 40 minutes.”
But 40 minutes later, the bus had still not arrived at Dominic’s home in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn.
At 8 p.m., the boy’s panicked family was repeatedly calling the bus company’s dispatcher.
“They kept on saying '10 minutes, 5 minutes,'” his grandmother said. “Whenever we called, they gave us some random time. Then the police came. Everyone was hysterical. We thought the worst that could happen to him. We were lied to constantly.”
Finally, at 9:30 p.m., they saw the bus turn the corner. A crowd of concerned friends, neighbors and family had gathered.
“The driver wouldn’t open the door. We were screaming ‘let him off, let him off. We want to see him.' The driver was afraid for his own safety.”
After the driver opened the door, Dominic’s mother scooped up her son. The police questioned him and the driver.
Dominic had been on the bus for five hours, strapped in without food or water.
“I was crying all day," he said.
A spokesman for New Dawn Transit’s parent company, National Express in Illinois, says “The driver is new to our company and became lost on route.”
Chavez says “There’s GPS. Nobody gets lost anymore.”
Didn’t the driver have CPS on his cellphone? Couldn’t the dispatcher give him directions? The company spokesman wouldn’t answer, but said the incident was investigated and the driver was retrained and the dispatcher disciplined.
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