East Edition

Family of man found dead on bus sues cooperative

WHITTIER — The parents of a 19-year-old autistic man who was found dead after being left alone on a school bus here has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the bus transportation company.

Eun Ha Lee and Sang Sik Lee contend in their Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit that Pupil Transportation Cooperative had policies in place designed to prevent students from being left on buses, but they were not followed, and “this tragedy which needlessly took their beloved son away from them should have never happened.”

Hun Joon “Paul” Lee, 19, was found unresponsive around 4:15 p.m. Sept. 11 aboard the bus, which was parked at the cooperative’s bus depot at 9402 Greenleaf Ave. in Whittier, according to police and fire officials. Bus drivers who found him tried to perform CPR, as did paramedics who arrived at the scene, but Lee was pronounced dead.

According to police, Lee rode the bus to a transition program at the Sierra Education Center operated by the Whittier Union High School District at about 8:30 a.m. Sept. 11, and should have boarded it to return home by 4 p.m. When he didn’t get home on time, his mother called the school district, which called Pupil Transportation, leading to his discovery by the driver.

The lawsuit contends that Lee never got off the bus at school in the morning and the driver returned to the bus depot, less than a mile from the school, “locked it and left” with Lee still inside.

“September 11 was a typical hot summer day with temperatures nearing 100 degrees,” according to the lawsuit, which claims PTC officials left Lee on the bus “all morning and all afternoon.”

In the days after Lee’s death, PTC officials announced a series of policy changes designed to prevent anyone from being left on a bus.

Spokesman Tom DeLapp said the company implemented a “team checking system so no one individual can sign off on the fact a bus is clear.” He said two adults will have to walk the bus before it is cleared.

DeLapp said the company reached out to Lee’s family, and the company’s board voted to donate $10,000 to the family to help cover funeral and other costs.