5-year-old boy with autism lost for hours on bus in SW Houston

Valentino left school on bus at 3:10 p.m., didn't make it home until 7:45 p.m.

By Keith Garvin - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - One of the worst nightmares a mother can imagine is having no idea where your child is. For Carmen Rivera, of southwest Houston, she didn't know where 5-year-old Valentino was for more than three hours.

"I was just so frustrated. I was scared," said Rivera. "I mean, I didn't know what happened to my child."

Valentino -- who is autistic -- was heading home Monday afternoon from Thomas Pilgrim Academy on Skyline Drive near Hillcroft and Richmond avenues.

Valentino left the school on a bus at 3:10 p.m. and when he was about 30 minutes late, his mother chalked it up to it simply being the first day of school -- lots of people were running behind.

But an hour later Valentino's mother called the school and the bus motor pool after being unable to reach the driver on her cellphone. They finally located the driver by 6 p.m., but Valentino didn't make it home until 7:45 p.m. that night. He was tired, hungry and thirsty.

"The first thing he did, saw a bottle of water," said Valentino's mother. "He grabbed it with his teeth, opened it and drank almost half the bottle."

Houston ISD confirms the driver not only got lost with Valentino on Monday, but on Tuesday the same driver also dropped off another student at the wrong school. The district has taken action.

In a statement to Local 2 a spokesman said, "Drivers are expected to communicate with the driver terminal when assistance is needed. In this incident, the bus driver did not follow protocols quickly enough and as a result will no longer be assigned to a route that includes children with special needs."

Carmen Rivera said her son is now afraid to ride the bus from school. For the time being she will drop him off and pick him up until he loses that fear.

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