A school bus dropped off a kindergartner at a Bronx street corner earlier than normal Monday, leaving him alone to wander in the cold with no guardian in sight until a stranger found him and brought him home, his furious parents told NBC 4 New York.
Five-year-old Rafael Sanchez, who attends PS 392, was dropped off at his usual stop in Throgs Neck earlier than his usual drop-off time, and no one was there to pick him up, his parents said.
"I didn't see my daddy," Rafael recounted to NBC 4 the next day. "I was looking for him."
Father Edgar Sanchez said he arrived at his normal time, and after waiting for the school bus and seeing no one else around, he was told by a neighbor that the bus had already left.
He took a cab to his son's school, where the principal told him that in cases where no one is at a bus stop to receive the child, the bus driver is supposed to finish the route and then return to the school to drop off the child. Sanchez said he was told to wait for the bus to return with his son.
While waiting, his wife called to frantically tell him a man had found their son walking the streets alone, and, guided by contact information in the boy's backpack, brought him home.
"About an hour he was on the streets, and he's only 5 years old," the boy's mother, Mariana Sanchez, told NBC 4 New York Monday. "He crossed two streets. Two."
"There's a lot of people on the streets. Right people, good people, bad people. You don't know what's going to happen," said Mariana.
The bus company, Pioneer, pulled the veteran bus driver off the route Tuesday.
A spokesperson for the company said the driver told the company that eight children got off at that stop Monday and that attendants were there.
"Safety is always a priority when transporting our children," Pioneer bus company said in a statement, adding that the driver has been on the job since 1986 and has a perfect record.
Mariana said she was relieved the driver was off her son's route.
"I don't trust that person anymore. I don't trust him," she said Tuesday, as she picked up her son from school.
Mariana said Rafael will be back on the bus Wednesday and wants the incident to be a reminder for all parents and bus drivers to be alert.
"My son's life is in someone else's hands when I'm not next to him," she said.