District admits driver left boy with autism on Albany bus

Credit: Erica Heartquist, KGW Staff

District admits driver left boy with autism on Albany bus

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by KGW Staff

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kgw.com

Posted on January 9, 2014 at 10:48 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 9 at 8:12 PM

ALBANY, Ore. -- A boy with autism disappeared after his mom put him on the school bus in Albany and the district has accepted the fault.

Lyfe Ellefson-Hamar was found still seat-belted into the bus, where he had been left for almost an hour, with the door wide open in an empty bus garage.

The district admitted the school bus driver neglected to check that all the students were off the bus before he left, as first reported by KGW's newspartner The Oregonian.

Lyfe's mother, Ashlee Ellefson, said she was terrified when she got the call from the school asking about her son's whereabouts.  Both Ashlee and her husband Jeff Hamar panicked.

"As a parent, you know, the worst case scenario runs through your mind," Hamar said.

"When they found him, it turned from fear, to panic, to outrage," Ellefson added.

Lyfe was on a special-needs bus because he has autism and also does not speak.

The driver has now been placed on paid leave during the investigation.

"Special needs bus drivers are the more experienced drivers, they get more training. He should have known better," said Jim Haggart, spokesman for the Greater Albany Public School District. "We certainly understand why the parents are concerned. Sorry this happened."

The district is also reviewing its procedures following this scare.  But Ellefson said that's not enough for her.  She wants real, tangible changes made in the way drivers are trained.

"Obviously something's going wrong and they need to do something, it's not fair to the kids that their lives are in jeopardy," she said.

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