54ºF

Boy left behind on bus headed to Clermont Taekwondo class

No charges filed after boy left on bus headed to World Class Taekwondo

CLERMONT, Fla. – A 6-year-old boy is OK after he was left for hours on a school bus headed to his Taekwondo class in Clermont, authorities said.

Clermont police arrived at 6:20 p.m. Thursday to Lost Lake Elementary at 1901 John's Lake Rd after the boy was reported missing.

Police said Jaden was supposed to be picked up at his school, World Class Taekwondo.

Charles Cruz went to the Taekwondo school to pick his son up and Taekwondo instructor Mark Thibodeau told him his son was not at the school, police said.

"Six o'clock on the dot, I pick him up, I look for my son, he wasn't there," said Cruz.

Cruz then drove to Lost Lake Elementary where he attempted to find his son.

"I raced up to the school, search inside the school, the classrooms and stuff. It was pretty scary, it was really scary," said Cruz.

While Cruz was at the elementary school, Thibodeau called Cruz to tell him that Jaden was at the karate school after all. He had fallen asleep in the bus.

"I'm human and I made a mistake, but we've hopefully put enough safeguards in place so this won't happen again," said Thibodeau.

Thibodeau told police he picked up the kids from Lost Lake Elementary by bus and took them to the Taekwondo studio. Thibodeau said he thought the boy wasn't at school because he asked a few of the students and said they didn't see him at school, police said.

Thibodeau said he entered the Taekwondo studio at 3:30 p.m. and checked the bus to see if the boy was still on it around 6 p.m., police said.

He was in the school bus for a few hours without air conditioning, although the temperature during the incident was relatively mild and not excessively hot or cold, officials said.

Thibodeau said new safeguards include a checklist and teaching students to use the emergency exits on a bus. While an investigation could result in charges, Jaden's parents said they wouldn't want them.

"I trust Mark with my son, there's no doubt about it. I know he'll make it right and I know he'll put whatever policies in place," said Cruz.

"My job is to teach people how to protect themselves, my job to keep people's kids safe, I take it very seriously. You can be sure that I will be walking that bus every single solitary day and checking every seat, it will never ever happen again," said Thibodeau.