METHUEN (CBS) – Robbie Vargas got off the bus at his Methuen home on time, his mother more comforted than she was on Monday. That’s when Robbie, a three year old boy with autism, who has difficulty communicating, was left on the school bus after camp.
“I’m just thinking what could have happened, what could have happened to Robbie,” his mother Roxanne Vargas tells WBZ-TV.
The driver, Philip Lahey, had parked the bus in his driveway at the end of the route with Robbie still sleeping in a booster seat. Lahey says it was an honest mistake but knows he has to pay the price, and did by being terminated. “This mistake is absolutely killing me,” he said.
Roxanne Vargas says she began calling the school camp Robbie was attending and Trombly Motor Coach when the bus didn’t arrive at the usual 1:40 p.m. The company called Lahey and that’s when he realized what happened. The former city councilor and community activist says it was a new route and the bus monitor on board insisted everyone was off.
“She said we were clear, so I called in we were clear. I came home and parked the bus and I didn’t double check, I just didn’t double check,” said Lahey.
It’s company policy to make a final walk through the bus, said spokesman George Flynn. He says the case will be reviewed with all drivers and monitors at start-up meetings this week. He also says the company is installing new technology, including alarms, on buses that will require drivers to check all rows for any children left behind at the end of the route.
Roxanne Vargas is making sure Robbie sits in the front seat now and is never left alone. “Anybody can make a mistake, this is a big mistake and unfortunately with my son.”
A mistake that Philip Lahey says he knows does not get a second chance. “I have run this through my mind so many times on things I wish I would have done. The bus monitor, Daichelle Anderson, has also been terminated.
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