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June 17, 2009  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

‘Suspicious’ bus incident was false alarm


OTTAWA — An incident with a school bus that raised suspicions and triggered a police investigation turned out to be a misunderstanding.

Ottawa police said that last Wednesday morning, four children ages 6 to 10 were standing at a street corner when a yellow school bus stopped next to them. The driver either asked the children to get on the bus or asked them whether they were going to a particular school — there were conflicting accounts — but all of those children walk to school.

Police said that an adult who had observed the interaction confronted the driver, who then left the area.

The police department’s Sexual Assault/Child Abuse Unit began an investigation of the incident and issued a press release asking for information from the public.

But the next day, the unit announced that it had determined that the school bus driver was legitimate.

“Ottawa Police received good public assistance with this file and concluded that the school bus operator was an employee, and he had invited children to get on board due to the fact that he was unfamiliar with the bus route,” a follow-up press release said.

The initial police release said that the bus had “no logos or company markings,” but an official from First Student Canada told The Ottawa Citizen that the company’s name was marked on the side of the bus.

Branch Manager Adel Jahshan also noted that the driver, who was substituting for the route’s regular driver, has been working for the company for 25 years and has an exemplary record.

“He was covering for that driver and didn’t know the students,” Jahshan told The Ottawa Citizen. “So it’s not uncommon for them to stop and say, ‘Are you going to this school?’ We’ve been doing that for years. It’s a standard procedure for spare drivers.”

What may have added to the suspicions of those involved in the encounter was an earlier, unrelated incident with an unmarked bus in another area of Ottawa.

On May 15, two girls were waiting for their school bus when an unfamiliar male pulled up in an empty yellow bus, which was described as being older and very dirty and having no name markings, police said. The driver reportedly said that he was driving for three different schools that day and told the girls to get on board. The girls refused, and the driver left the area, police said.

That incident is still being investigated by the Sexual Assault/Child Abuse Unit.

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