2002-12-12 / Front Page

4-YEAR-OLD LEFTIN SCHOOL BUS

By Charles Rogers

By Charles Rogers

Virgil and Mitshawn Patterson, parents of the four-year-old who was allegedly left in school van during snowstorm last Thursday, wait at 69th Precinct. The driver was charged with child endangerment. Charles RogersVirgil and Mitshawn Patterson, parents of the four-year-old who was allegedly left in school van during snowstorm last Thursday, wait at 69th Precinct. The driver was charged with child endangerment. Charles Rogers

A four-year-old kindergarten student who was to have been dropped off at P.S. 276 last Thursday morning fell asleep in the back of the school minibus that was to take him there and wasn’t discovered until hours later by the bus driver when he stopped in Mas-sapequa on Long Island, the child’s mother told police.

The driver did not call the school or the parents to tell them that he found the child, but instead delivered the boy back to the school during his scheduled afternoon pickup without mentioning it to school authorities either.

The following day, the driver was arrested by police when he arrived at the school after the parents were told by the boy that he did not go to school and was in the van all day.

The driver, Vibart K. Luke, 63, was arrested by Police Officer Pat Con-nelly and charged with endangering the welfare of a child.

The child’s parents, Mitshawn Pat-terson, 29, and her husband Virgil, 31, said they were "distraught and devastated" when they heard the story from their son late Thursday afternoon and rushed the youngster to Brookdale Hos-pital for examination by a doctor.

"We didn’t know what to think," said the child’s father. "Our first thought was to have our boy checked out pro-perly. Luckily, the doctors at Brook-dale checked him out thoroughly and found no signs of physical or sexual abuse and that he was okay, at least physically. Nowadays you can’t be too careful."

School Safety Supervisor Sergeant Ray Singletary, who is investigating the circumstances, said the minibus driver picked up the boy at his home in Bushwick at 6:45 a.m. Thursday.

"After dropping off different children at different schools, including P.S. 276," Singletary said, "Mr. Luke told us he drove the van to Long Is-land, at which time he heard someone in the back of the van coughing and found the child sleeping." He said Luke didn’t call anyone, but kept the boy all day, finally delivering him to the Can-arsie school shortly after 5 p.m.

However, in an exclusive interview with the Canarsie Courier, Mrs. Pat-terson said her son told her he awakened on the bus to find it parked at the side of a highway, which she presumed to be the Southern State Parkway.

"My son said the driver was now-here to be found and he went to the front of the van and tried to open the door but he couldn’t. I’m glad he couldn’t because he would have been in the middle of the road and surely would have been hurt or worse," she said. Both parents said that the child had not eaten all day, according to the doctor who examined him, who said his stomach was empty.

"I always pack a good lunch for him, but this time it was missing. All I can figure is that man took it from him," she stated.

The Pattersons said they intend to press charges and are thinking about suing the company for which Luke works "except we’re not sure if he is working alone or for someone else, at this point," they said. Sergeant Single-tary said authorities are checking out Luke’s work record.

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