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Vulnerable boy (9) left on school bus while driver went to Lidl

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The mother of a vulnerable nine-year-old boy who was accidentally left alone on a school bus while the driver went to Lidl has shared her shock over the incident.

The distraught parent was contacted by her husband shortly after 9am one morning last week after the school reached out to say their son had not arrived for class.

The woman, who does not want to be named, told BBC Radio Ulster’s The Nolan Show that Christopher has Down’s Syndrome and no sense of danger.

She recalled a phone call from her concerned husband who asked “did you not put Christopher on the bus this morning?” before she responded saying “of course I did”.

“Panic set in,” she explained.

“I was terrified.

“I jumped into the car and rushed over to the school – there were teachers waiting on me.

“This was around 9.40am. I was very upset.”

The worried mum refused to sit down and demanded to know where her son was.

However, the principal was unable to answer and informed her that CCTV shows he never got off the bus when it arrived for the morning drop off.

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“I was furious,” Christopher’s mum recalled.

She later learned that the bus driver had gone to Lidl to do his shopping after the school run.

The Education Authority requires that drivers check their vehicles before disembarking.

“How he never noticed my child was still on the bus is beyond me,” the boy’s mum said.

Christopher proceeded to undo his belt and exit the unlocked bus to “run about" the carpark.

He eventually made his way into the supermarket where he was found trying to buy a can of Pepsi.

The boy’s mum revealed she’s had “nightmares” about what could have happened and said the site is close to four lanes of motorway and a toy store.

“If Christopher had have seen that he would have went there,” she said.

“My child could have easily been killed.”

The anonymous parent said a carer is supposed to walk her child into the school due to his serious impaired learning ability.

A spokesperson for the Education Authority (EA) has offered a “sincere and unreserved” apology for the incident which they acknowledged shouldn’t have happened.

"It is completely and utterly unacceptable," they said.

An investigation is underway to determine why mandatory procedures were not followed.

The shocking incident came to light after the EA apologised for more than 100 pupils at a County Antrim primary being left without school transport for two days.

Around half of the children at the Mary Queen of Peace Primary rely on EA-run buses to bring them to the rural primary school which has 229 pupils on two sites located three miles apart.

They were informed there would be no bus service available on Thursday or Friday.

Alliance MLA, Patricia O'Lynn, has criticised the authority for "a shocking lack of preparation" to provide the vital service while the regular driver was off sick.


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