Imagine putting your son or daughter on the school bus then getting a call from their teacher, saying your child never made it to class. A Baroda couple wants to press charges against a former Lakeshore Bridgman transportation driver who forgot to drop off their 4-year-old at school.
The school district fired that driver, Eric Trickett, immediately after Friday afternoon’s incident. Trickett made a mistake and felt terrible about it, said Transportation Director Nick White – he picked 4-year-old Donnie Wilson up at home but later forgot to check his van to make sure the little boy got out.
“When the school teacher called us and said, “Donnie is not here, is he supposed to be in?' we were like ‘yes,’” Carrie Wilson recalled. “I thought the worst. I thought, ‘I’m never going to see my son again.’”
As panic set in, Carrie and her husband Don tried to figure out why their 4-year-old son never made it to speech therapy at Sylvester Elementary in Berrien Springs.
“I immediately went over to the school, went the route the bus would have taken to make sure there wasn’t an accident or anything,” Don told WSBT.
Here’s a timeline of what Baroda Lake Township Police Chief Gary Ruhl said happened:
12:15 – Trickett picked Donnie up at home
12:45 – Sylvester Elementary called Carrie to say he never showed up
1:18 – Carrie called 911, then police worked to track down Trickett at home
1:50 – Trickett met police at the school with Donnie in the back seat of his van
“That’s when the emotions just broke and I just held onto him as tight as I could,” said Don.
“He simply forgot. He simply forgot,” Carrie said. “So something is wrong there. It’s just a 10 minute drive and my son is the only person on this bus route. It’s like OK, you know? What is going on? Do you hire just anybody to deliver our children to school? What is wrong?”
“We demand that when parents turn over their children to us every day that their safety is our first and utmost responsibility and that was broken Friday afternoon,” said Bridgman Superintendent Shane Peters.
But for now, the Wilsons say they can’t rely on the school system to get their son to and from Sylvester – they’re dropping him off and picking him up themselves.
“It’s hard to get that trust back,” Carrie said.
The driver worked for the school district more than five years and hadn't been in trouble before, said Peters. All drivers are required to check their buses and vans from front to back to make sure no kids are on it at the end of their route and Trickett admitted he did not do that.
Lakeshore Bridgman bus drivers have to pass a bus driver certification class and also go through the same background checks as teachers. They also have to have a clean driving record – something the school district says Trickett had when he was hired.