Northern Ireland

Disabled teenager was left 'cold and distressed' at back of bus for almost three hours

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Media captionThe father of a teenager with disabilities who was left alone on a school bus for almost three hours has said his daughter now rarely lets her parents out of her sight.

The father of a teenager with disabilities who was left alone on a school bus for almost three hours has said his daughter now rarely lets her parents out of her sight.

Jon Kerr told the BBC that 17-year-old Sophie Kerr "doesn't really trust anybody now".

Sophie, from Enniskillen, is mute and relies on a wheelchair.

She was left alone after both a bus driver and special needs escort failed to deliver her to school.

The Education Authority have issued a public apology to the family, but Mr Kerr said he was still waiting for a written apology.

The Willowbridge special needs school pupil was on the bus to school on the morning of 19 October, but was forgotten about and taken to the bus depot on the Sligo Road.

Mr Kerr said he was contacted by the headmistress of the school at 12.30 GMT that day to say she had just arrived.

'Cold, distressed and very upset'

He said: "She was left unattended, we don't know what happened or what could have happened to her in that time.

"As far as the school were concerned she was maybe off sick or had an appointment, as far as we were concerned she was at school, so there was a grey area where nobody knew where she was for that length of time."

It is understood that Sophie's escort got a lift from the bus at the school into the town and left Sophie unattended in the back of the bus.

Mr Kerr told the Fermanagh Herald the bus dropped off two or three other children who weren't in wheelchairs and the driver then drove off with Sophie sitting in the back and went on to the bus depot.

He said when his daughter, who requires regular medication, was found in the back of the bus she was "cold, distressed and very upset".

He said: "We want processes to be put in place so that this can't happen again to any other child in Northern Ireland."

Sophie now travels by taxi to and from school.

"We won't let her on an Education Authority bus at the moment, at least until we build up a trust with them again," he said.

The family have since received assurances from the Education Authority that both the bus driver and the escort have been suspended pending further investigation.

Image copyright EA
Image caption The Education Authority said it is currently investigating the incident.

In a statement, the Education Authority said it is currently investigating the incident.

Apology

It said: "On becoming aware of this incident, the authority took immediate action and contacted the pupil's parents to offer an unreserved apology.

"EA regional managing director Barry Mulholland has also written a formal letter of apology to the parents, providing assurances that all necessary steps will be taken to prevent such an incident occurring again.

"The safety and wellbeing of all pupils is the authority's primary concern.

"The authority takes this incident very seriously and a robust investigation is ongoing, including a full review of processes and safeguards relating to the transportation of pupils."