WHITTIER, Calif. (AP) — The family of an autistic teenager who died after being left alone on a Whitter school bus on a sweltering day is receiving $23.5 million from the bus company, the family’s attorneys announced Monday.
Pupil Transportation Cooperative is settling a wrongful-death lawsuit over the Sept. 11, 2015, death of Hun Joon “Paul” Lee.
A message left for an attorney representing the company wasn’t immediately returned.
The bus carried Lee, 19, and two other special needs students to Sierra Vista Adult School in the eastern Los Angeles suburb.
Two students got off, but Lee was left inside the closed and sweltering bus for seven hours as outside temperatures neared 100 degrees, investigators said.
The lawsuit contended that the driver, Armando Ramirez, was distracted by sexually explicit text messages from a co-worker.
“Mr. Ramirez then returned the bus to the yard, oblivious to the fact that the nearly six-foot and over 300 pound young man was still aboard, and quickly exited to meet his lover for a sexual tryst without first performing his required child check and post-trip sweep of the bus,” said a statement from the family’s lawyers.
His mother called the school district when the teen didn’t return home, and his body was found inside the bus.
Ramirez, 37, pleaded guilty to dependent adult abuse resulting in death and was sentenced to two years in prison.
Lee’s death prompted passage last year of a state law requiring a child-safety alarm system on buses that the driver must deactivate before leaving the bus.
“We are proud that Mr. and Mrs. Lee have taken steps to make sure the tragedy that has befallen them will not strike another family,” their attorney, Rahul Ravipudi, said in the statement.
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