Highlands & Islands

Boy, four, left on school bus tried to walk home

John Robertson
Image caption Schoolboy John Robertson relaxing at home following his ordeal last week

A four-year-old boy tried to walk home from a bus depot after being left on his school bus.

John Robertson was travelling home to North Kessock from Munlochy Primary School on the Black Isle last Friday.

But he did not get off at his stop and ended up, unnoticed, in the bus in D&E Coaches' Inverness Longman depot, about three miles and across the A9's Kessock Bridge from where he lives.

The boy was spotted close to Inverness Caledonian Thistle's stadium.

He told his parents he had waited onboard the mini bus after it stopped at the depot, expecting the driver to come and find him.

After a time, still on his own inside the bus unnoticed, he managed to open the door and set out to find his way home.

'Shaken up'

D&E Coaches said it was "extremely disappointed" by the circumstances of the incident. It has dismissed the driver for gross misconduct.

Highland Council, which contracts D&E Coaches as a provider of its school transport, and Police Scotland have begun investigations into the incident.

John's parents, Nikki and John, had thought he was late home because the school bus had been delayed by bad weather, which included snow showers.

His father was waiting for John at home where the boy should have been dropped off.

Image copyright John Robertson
Image caption John Robertson snr had expected his son to be dropped off at home
Image caption John tried to make his way home after being left on a bus in a coach depot

It was the boy's fifth time taking the school bus, which takes about eight children to and from Munlochy Primary. John's parents usually take him to and from school by car, but the car had broken down.

On the previous four days, John was dropped off near the door of his home. But the bus did not appear near the flats that Friday.

John's father initially believed this may have been because of the snow and that John had been dropped off a short distance away.

When John still had not come home, his family called the bus company and were told that John had been dropped off. In a follow up call they were told that he had not got on the bus.

John's parents began calling friends, family and police in an effort to find him.

Family and friends also made searches of North Kessock and Munlochy for the youngster.

'Very worrying'

Mr Robertson told BBC Radio Scotland's John Beattie programme he was half way through a call to police when officers received information that John had been found and was being taken to a police station.

John told his parents that he had sat on the bus in the depot for a time thinking the bus driver would come back and find him.

Mr Robertson said: "It was a mini bus, so he was able to open the door.

"He decided to get to the Kessock Bridge to get home. He said he crossed a couple of roads. Luckily two teachers found him.

"They said he was shaken up, cold and after some persuasion, because we've taught him not to talk to strangers, they managed to get him into their warm car."

Mr Robertson said he was proud of his son's actions. John has been getting a lift to and from school from a family friend since the incident.

Image copyright John Robertson
Image caption The four-year-old thought the driver would come to find him

A spokeswoman for Highland Council said: "We are extremely concerned about this incident and we are carrying out a full investigation into the circumstances with our contracted school transport provider.

"The incident is also the subject of an ongoing police investigation."

Earlier Black Isle councillor Gordon Adam told BBC Alba it was a concerning incident.

He said he thought the boy had fallen asleep and woke up at the depot and was not seen by the driver.

"Somehow he got himself to the stadium, which in itself is very worrying as it would have involved crossing a main road," he added.

D&E Coaches said it had carried out its own investigation of the incident.

'Sincere apologies'

A spokesman said: "We are extremely disappointed at the circumstances in which a child was left on one of our minibuses going from Munlochy Primary School to North Kessock last Friday when it was parked in a yard in Inverness.

"A full internal investigation has been conducted and the driver concerned has been dismissed for gross misconduct.

"Relying on an assurance from another pupil that this child was not on the bus is unacceptable.

"All drivers are expected to check their buses at the end of the journey but this clearly did not occur in this instance."

Image caption John ended up in the D&E Coaches' Inverness Longman depot

In a response to the incident, the company has introduced a new course on Driver Awareness in School Contracts as part of the accreditation process for a driver licence.

Long-term employees were being given refresher courses.

The spokesman added: "We wish to express our sincere apologies to the family of the child for the distress caused and we are extremely relieved that the child was safe and sound.

"D&E Coaches have been running school contracts for over 20 years and currently have 58 school contracts conveying 3,000 children a day to and from school.

"This is the first time anything of this nature has occurred to mar our excellent record and the new measures will enhance driver vigilance to try to ensure there is never a repeat."

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