Bus Driver Charged In Death Of Special Needs Student, 19, On 90-Degree Day

A substitute California school bus driver, Armando Abel Ramirez, 37, faces one felony charge of dependent adult abuse after he allegedly left a special needs student, Hun Joon "Paul" Lee, 19, for seven hours in a scorching bus inside a bus yard with the windows closed. According to reports, temperatures reached 90 degrees on that fateful day. Ramirez was a substitute driver, working a split shift.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, Lee attended a transition program for adult students requiring special needs. He could not verbally communicate. Whittier Union High School District Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson released a condolence statement to the family.

"Our hearts are with our student's parents and family---we're all grieving. We're making ourselves, our counseling services and our staff available to his family and to our students and staff close to him."

Los Angeles County coroner Lt. David Smith said Lee was found slumped in the bus aisle and certified dead when all attempts to resuscitate him failed. The special needs student, who attended the Sierra Adult School, usually rode the bus to his home in Whittier, a city located within the Los Angeles County in Southern California. Lee's family has sued the bus agency and school district for alleged negligence and in hiring Ramirez.

According to the lawsuit, Lee was picked up at home around 8 a.m., heading for the Sierra Vista Adult School. There were only three students on the bus when the bus arrived at the school. Only two students came down from the bus while Lee remained inside. Lee usually left school at 2:30 p.m. and reached home at 4 p.m. His mother called the police when he did not show up. The Whittier Police Department got in touch with the bus company, and Ramirez was sent back to the bus yard, where he found Lee dead. Police arrived on the scene to find several bus drivers administering CPR on the special needs student. Lee was certified dead 10 minutes after the police arrived.

Prosecutors said, "Ramirez reportedly believed that Lee had gotten off the bus to go to school in the morning. Yet he allegedly did not walk to the rear of the bus and did not look over his shoulder to check that any one was left in the vehicle at the end of his morning shift. After working his shift, he went to the bus yard, filled some paperwork and left for home. He only returned the next day after a dispatcher told him Lee was missing."

Ramirez was arrested Wednesday afternoon and is being held on a $50,000 bail. Ramirez will appear in court April 25 and faces up to nine years if convicted.

Recently, a Texas school driver lost her job after a gut-wrenching video emerged online showing how a school bus was nearly struck by a speeding train, according to the Daily Mail. A cellphone video recorded by a student on board the bus captured the moment the vehicle crossed the railroads tracks moments before the train came hurtling past.

In the 30-second clip, teens are heard yelling profanities as the incoming train is viewed from the bus. Afterwards, kids are heard laughing and joking about their near death experience. Harold Van Alstyne, one of the students, did not find it funny.

"I thought I was going to die. We were all screaming and telling the bus driver to move forward. Everyone was really freaking out. It could have been horrible. Just a few more inches and it could have been all over," he recalled.

State law dictates that all drivers should stay up to 15 feet from railroad tracks when a train is sighted. The driver was suspended but later fired for violating standard procedures about where to stay during an incoming train.

[Image via Shutterstock/marchello74]