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Richmond mom’s ‘heart dropped’ when son with autism disappeared on bus

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Posted at 7:28 PM, Jul 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-29 05:40:04-04

RICHMOND, Va. – A local man with autism who was stranded on a GRTC Care Van in the heat is recovering after a five- hour ordeal Monday. His mother Cynthia Favret said her 24-year-old son has taken the CARE van for months, from his group home in Bon Air to the Faison Center for Excellence near Willow Lawn.

Then Monday morning she got a call that jolted her. Workers at the Faison Day program called and asked when Michael would be arriving.

Favret said her heart dropped because she knew that her son had boarded a van earlier that morning. She said she tried to call GRTC, but was unhappy with the misinformation and response she said she received.

“They said we can’t check the log, because the dispatcher who handled that isn’t here,” Favret explained. “The dispatcher is on break.”

The concerned mom who reached out to CBS 6 News said she was told her son may have gotten off of the CARE Van at another day program he previously attended. She contacted workers there that she knew to verify if it was true.

Workers there told her they hadn’t seen Michael, but would be happy to help canvass the neighborhood around that area in case he was wandering around.

In the meantime, Favret said she contacted Richmond Police and anyone else she could think of that might be able to help her find her son.

Then later she learned that her son fell asleep on the CARE Van.

GRTC spokesperson Carrie Rose Pace said that while GRTC does own the CARE vans, they contract with MV Transportation to provide the drivers and dispatchers.

Rose Pace said they are deeply disturbed by what happened.

She confirmed that a contracted MV Transportation driver and a dispatcher had been disciplined. Rose Pace said there are protocols in place to be followed to prevent this very thing from happening.

“It’s standard operating procedure to do post service checks,” Rose Pace added.  “We’re looking for anything or anyone left behind on a van and it was not followed.”

She confirmed that Favret’s son was found five hours after he boarded the van.

He was found in the CARE van which was parked at the GRTC parking lot on East Belt Boulevard. Another worker, who was preparing to use the van for another run, was doing a pre-inspection before driving off. That’s when Michael was discovered.

“It was determined that he fell asleep on the van and he was at GRTC,” Favret explained. “The temperature outside was 87 degrees.”

But it was over 100 inside the van, according to his mom.

“The driver brought him back to the group home,” Favret said. “The appropriate thing to do would have been to seek medical attention for him.”

“He did later go to Chippenham Hospital and was treated for dehydration and low blood pressure,” she added.

Rose Pace said  that was another failure on the MV Transportation staff’s part. She said in this case, they definitely should have called 911.

“Especially in the summertime heat, you’re talking about the threat for anyone like a pet or a person," Rose Pace said. “When the temperature is too high then your body reacts to it and that’s why we have protocols in place.”

MV transportation agreed that their mandatory protocols were not followed, which is why the contractor suspended the driver and dispatcher after this incident. Rose Pace said they are now working closely with MV Transportation in this ongoing investigation.

Favret said the good news is that her son Michael is doing fine. She said she will be forever grateful for the workers at the Faison Center for Excellence for sounding the alarm.

“I thank God for Faison staff who knew to call and say something was wrong,” Favret said with tears in her eyes.  “The Faison School is responsible in all likelihood for him being alive. If he hadn’t gotten off of the van, he could have expired.”