Student with cerebral palsy who died 'was sleeping all day,' 911 calls show

J.J. Benjamin was cold, swollen, not breathing when he got off school bus

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - When a Tohopekaliga High School student with cerebral palsy arrived home Tuesday, his sister was told the 19-year-old, who was cold and not breathing, had been "sleeping all day," according to 911 calls.

When J.J. Benjamin's sister retrieved him from the school bus, she said the bus monitor told her, "He's been sleeping all day," she said in the 911 call.

The family said he was hunched over when he got off the bus, which was not typical. "He's usually awake," his sister said in the 911 call.

"How could he sleep all day? He can't sleep all day."

She then she noticed his arm was swollen, and she checked the device on his wheelchair that monitors his breathing. The teen was non-verbal and required feeding tubes to eat.

"He's not breathing," she told dispatchers.

A dispatcher talked Zena Benjamin through chest compressions until paramedics arrived about eight minutes after she called 911.

Benjamin was taken to a hospital, where he died. An autopsy will determine his cause of death.

Zena Benjamin started a GoFundMe fundraiser to help cover the costs of a funeral for her brother. The family plans to honor him on March 30 which would have been his 20th birthday.

J.J. Benjamin.

Osceola County Schools spokeswoman Dana Schafer said there is video from the school bus showing the monitor and driver followed protocol.

"The student was never left unattended on the bus. His regular bus driver and bus attendant followed appropriate protocol in securing the student on the bus and delivering the student to his home, where a family member received him," Osceola School District officials said in a statement.

All bus drivers and attendants are trained on protocol and safety procedures for working with students with special needs, Schafer said.

"The video has been reviewed by law enforcement and our Supervisor of Training and Compliance in our Transportation Department, and it was found that protocol was followed and everything was done in compliance," Schafer said.

Schafer could not comment on Benjamin's condition during the school day, citing student confidentiality.

Editor's note: Osceola County Sheriff's Office officials said Benjamin was 18, but his family later corrected that information. Benjamin was 19 when he died.

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