A bus driver in Whittier, California, who left an autistic student on a hot bus, leading to the student's death, did so because he was distracted by making plans to have sex with another bus driver, according to lawyers for the student's family.
Armando Abel Ramirez, 37, was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty in charges related to the student's death in January 2017. Ramirez failed to check that his bus was empty before he left at the end of his shift, on one of the hottest days of the year, Sept. 11, 2015, according to KTLA.
Hun Joon "Paul" Lee, 19, remained on the bus, and his body was discovered hours later, when his mother was concerned after her son hadn't come home after school. When mom Eun Ha Lee contacted the school, they told her that Paul had been absent from school that day, even though Eun Ha knew she had put her son on the bus at 8 a.m. that morning.
The bus only had three other students that morning.
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Eun Ha said Paul, who had the mental capacity of a 3-year-old was nonverbal, would not have been able to call for help.
"I feel like, we are nothing," said the mother. "They killed my son. Technically, they killed my son."
Text message records revealed that Ramirez, who has already pleaded guilty to felony dependent adult abuse, had been arranging a meet up to have sex with another bus driver on the day that Paul was left behind and died.
"He took his attention away from Paul and onto his phone, onto those text messages and onto sex -- rushed away from work to go have sex," said Robert Gassman, the attorney for the Lee family.
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"With these text messages we can cross-reference the time on the text messages with the time the bus pulled up in front of the school and we can see that he was texting at the exact moment that he was supposed to be off-boarding Paul," Glassman said.
The female driver that Ramirez was having the affair with said she felt guilty, telling police, "this kid was dying, and we were laughing," according to the Whittier Daily News.
The Lee family will face Pupil Transportation, the bus company, in court on May 15.
After Paul's death, Senate Bill 1072, also known as the "Paul Lee School Bus Safety Law," was signed into law, requiring child-safety alarms on school buses in California.
"Paul’s death should never have happened and I will remain vigilant that it will not be without change. When a child boards a school bus, there should never be a fear of them being left behind," said Eun Ha at a senate hearing, according to Panish, Shea and Boyle LLP. "Today is the first step in backing up our words with actions and I want to thank [state] Senator [Tony] Mendoza for authoring Senate Bill 1072. Knowing that this bill has been written in his name will put a smile on Paul’s face in heaven."