A missing five-year-old Queensland child was found “petrified” and banging on the doors of a school bus, almost five hours after she should have returned home from her first day back at school, her mother says.
Bobbie Langdon contacted authorities on Monday afternoon when her daughter Alyssa Jayde New did not get off the bus from Jimboomba State School, south of Brisbane.
“I wasn’t too alarmed until probably about 4:30pm, when no one had seen her … when it started to get to the 6:30 mark, I was losing the plot,” she said.
Police set up patrols of the Jimboomba and Yarrabilba areas and locals joined the search for the year one student.
Ms Langdon said her daughter was finally found about 7:30pm at the school bus depot at Logan.
“Alyssa was located petrified and crying banging on the school bus doors to get out,” she wrote on Facebook.
“For five long hours she slept her heat [sic] away.
“After five hours of a very terrify [sic] wait my daughter Alyssa Jayde New, five years old from Yarrabilba went missing and never returned home from the school but was finally returned home not crying to a very emotion [sic] happy mother.”
The Queensland Police Service said the child had been found safe and well after falling asleep on the bus.
Ms Langdon said Alyssa caught the bus every day when she was in prep last year but that she would not be returning to the school.
“My daughter will not be attending Jimboomba State School anymore and Logan coaches will be hearing from my family lawyer,” she said.
A spokesman for Logan Coaches confirmed the matter was being investigated but refused to elaborate further.
Timely reminder children’s routines are changing: police
Detective Inspector Mark White from the Logan District Child Protection and Investigation Unit said he was concerned the incident could have occurred the way it had.
“There were a few things combined that resulted in the young child ending up at the back of the bus asleep and slumping down, not being in clear view of the driver,” he said.
Police said the child was eventually found by an employee from the bus company who informed the authorities.
“It’s a timely reminder to everyone that the start of the school year – in particular for young children – can be a significant change to their previous routines,” Detective White said.
He said the bus company would be dealing with the matter internally.
On Tuesday morning, school parent Melissa Kennedy said it was “worrying” the girl could be left on a bus.
“I think we’re all protective of our kids and none of us want that to happen, so it’s really unfortunate,” she said.
“I’d be really confident that the school would have done everything that they could.”
Ms Kennedy said she hoped the bus company would review its processes in light of the incident.
Another parent, Kate McKenna, said “hundreds of people in the school community were looking for the girl on Monday afternoon”.
“It’s just overwhelming, really – it’s very worrying – I don’t know why the buses weren’t checked back at the depot,” she said.
‘This is a wake-up call’: Premier
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has been briefed on initial investigations and said bus companies needed to ensure its vehicles were empty before going to the depot.
“It appears that the driver did not do the end of run ‘sweep’ as drivers are supposed to do with those bus companies,” she said.
“We will be making sure that the Department of Transport writes to all bus companies, reminding them of that obligation to do that sweep at the end of the run.
“There are also some issues about how many students were supposed to be collected.”
Ms Palaszczuk said her education and transport ministers would be talking to Logan Coaches to investigate how the incident occurred.
“I think it would have been a horrific few hours for the parents not knowing what happened to their daughter, thankfully she has been found safe,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“This is a wake-up call to the bus companies … but also we need to make sure young students are familiar with their bus routes as well.
“I hope the bus company will do a review about how that happened and ensure that it definitely does not happen again,” she said.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said in a statement he was “deeply disturbed to learn of the incident”.
“My thoughts are with the family involved,” he said.
“I have discussed the incident with the bus company and informed them the incident is indefensible and that no parent should have to experience this avoidable trauma and stress.
“It is completely unacceptable and we need to make sure that this can’t happen again.
“I welcome the bus company’s swift investigation into how this occurred, and I await the outcome of that investigation.”
Ms Langdon said she wanted bus companies to enforce stricter polices to ensure students were properly accounted for.
“They should have a roll of every child that goes on their bus,” she said.
“It takes two seconds to sight that kid, to say ‘hi’ and tick a button.”
Queensland Bus Industry Council executive director David Tape said the incident was concerning.
“Bus operators have in place procedures where an onboard walk-through at the completion of a school run is to be conducted,” he said.
“This is standard practice across all jurisdictions.
“I am meeting with the Minister for Transport this week, and will take the opportunity to bring up this incident with him and discuss further ways to mitigate this risk and ensure it is an isolated incident.”