MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee school bus driver dropped off a seven-year-old in the wrong place. The boy was found alone outside in the freezing cold, after the sun went down.
Zechariah Bradley, a first-grader at Hope Christian, got on the bus after school. He was supposed to be dropped off less than a block away at daycare. Instead, the driver dropped him off a few blocks from his house, where no one was home. He says he tried to tell the bus driver it was the wrong place, but the message didn't get across.
"Not knowing where your son is, is just something you never want to feel," says Martie Bradley. "I went to the daycare to pick him up, and they told me he never showed up. I called Hope Christian, and the bus company. No one knew where he was. I was in a panic."
Little did she know, Zechariah was also in a panic. He was able to find his way home after being dropped off in the wrong place, but he was left waiting outside alone in the bitter cold and darkness. And because he was nervous, he says he forgot his hat and gloves on the bus.
"I was crying really hard," he says. "I was very cold. My hands and feet were hurting. I started yelling, asking if someone could help me."
No one knows exactly how long Zechariah was out there alone, before Renee Love came home and noticed the little boy down the alley.
"I knew he had to be really, really cold," she says. "He was crying. I asked him if he'd been waiting there since he got out of school. He said yes. I told him to come with me. I took him home, wrapped him up and gave him a snack. Then I went back out and put a note on his door, so his mom would see it when she got home."
Martie never felt such relief before in her life when she got home and saw the note. But she can't help but think of how much worse this could have ended. She's now looking into taking legal action.
"Someone bad could have picked him up or he could have froze out there," she says. "It breaks my heart. I don't want this to happen to anybody else. Nobody should have to go through this."
TODAY'S TMJ4 reached out to Riteway Bus Company but has not heard back.
Zachary Verriden, the Executive Director at Hope Christian School, released this statement:
On Monday, January 12 one of our students took the wrong afternoon bus and we feel terrible that the student was dropped off at home with no one to receive him. This was the first day of a new bus route for the student. We are grateful that he is safe and we were happy to see him back at school today in good spirits.
Upon learning that the child was dropped off at home instead of daycare, we immediately began working with the child's mother and grandmother, as well as the bus company, to determine exactly what happened.
The health and safety of our students is our top priority. We work with parents and the bus company to help ensure that our students arrive and return home from school safely everyday. Between our schools and the bus company, we have several safeguards in place to make sure this does not happen. Unfortunately, in this unique case, each of those safeguards failed.
We are considering additional safeguards in consultation with the bus company and I am personally taking responsibility to ensure this never happens again.