A 19-year-old special needs student was found dead on Friday, slumped in the aisle of a parked school bus at Whittier’s Sierra Education Center, and police are investigating whether he was inadvertently forgotten and left there all day long.
On Saturday, authorities identified the young man as Hun-Joon Lee, a special needs student who attended the center and regularly rode the bus home. On a typical day, the teen would leave the center at 2:30 p.m. and arrive home at 4, yet when he failed to show up on Friday, his mother called the school, who in turn contacted the bus company. A driver checked the bus, and found Lee unresponsive around 4:20.
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Police arrived minutes later to find several bus drivers attempting CPR on Lee, and took over the effort themselves, but to no avail. After 10 minutes, the teen was pronounced dead. No trauma was apparent, and no weapons were found at the scene, according to Brad White, a spokesman for the Whittier Police Department. Police were treating the young man’s death as suspicious, since nothing in his records indicated to them that he had an existing medical condition that could have led to the fatal incident, as the Los Angeles Times notes.
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According to CBS Los Angeles, the school district has yet to say whether Lee attended classes that day. As KTLA reports, police are investigating whether Lee was left on the bus all day, after receiving reports that he didn’t show up at school. The driver who found the teen was briefly detained for questioning, but later released. Other drivers assert that the 36-year-old man is “distraught,” and that Lee’s death was nothing more than a terrible accident.
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Sandy Thorstenson, superintendent of the Whittier School District, issued a statement on Friday, pointing out that the bus involved was not operated by the school district, but instead by a company called Pupil Transportation. The bus was located in the parking lot of Whittier Union High School District when Lee was found.
“This tragedy has devastated all of us,” Thorstenson said. “We are still gathering information about what happened. The District is calling for a speedy and thorough investigation to determine how something like this could happen. Our hearts are with our student’s parents and family — we’re all grieving.”
The investigation into Lee’s untimely death, and whether he was inadvertently left in the parked school bus, is still ongoing.
[Photo by Mario Tama / Getty Images]