By Michael Oates and Wil Cruz
DNAinfo.com New York Staff
STATEN ISLAND — A school bus driver and a matron were arrested for allegedly leaving a 4-year-old girl aboard the locked vehicle Wednesday for more than four hours, officials said.
Karla Saabedra, who attends Staten Island's Little Lamb Pre School, was supposed to be driven home Wednesday afternoon, but was discovered alone and crying inside a parked bus at a depot at 350 Chelsea Rd. just after 5:30 p.m., four hours after being left there, education and police officials said.
"She was scared because she didn't see nobody on the bus. She was really upset," said mom Leticia Saabedra, 30, of Port Richmond, Staten Island. Saavedra said her daughter was not hurt but was traumatized by the incident.
"She was nervous," Saabedra added in Spanish. "She didn't understand why they left her."
Saabedra said she called police at 4:30 after her daughter failed to show up. She didn't know if her daughter was safe until she was delivered home by a driver who heard her crying in the depot and found her huddled in the back of the bus near a window.
"Thank God nothing happened to her," Saabedra said. "I don't understand how this could have happened."
Driver Felix Delvalle, 50, and matron Lucila Cruz, 58, both of Staten Island, were arrested Thursday and charged with failure to exercise control of a minor, police said.
They were expected to be arraigned in Staten Island Criminal Court on charges of endangering the welfare of a child, a spokesman for the District Attorney said.
"They're supposed to take care of the children," Leticia Saabedra said. "They should stay in jail."
Cruz told authorities that she checked the bus and placed the mandatory sign on the bus, indicating that she searched for children before locking the bus.
"I checked the bus at the end of my shift and did not see anyone," she said, according to the criminal complaint against him. "I changed the sign in the back and went home."
Delvalle, too, said he made his rounds before leaving the vehicle.
"I checked the bus...for children and did not see one," he told authorities, according to his complaint. "I checked the bus because it is my responsibility."
Cruz and Delvalle, who worked for Consolidated Bus Transit, were immediately fired, a lawyer representing the company said Thursday.
"The employees failed to follow company policy, which is strictly and rigorously enforced," said Peter Silverman, general counsel for Consolidated.
Silverman added that workers for the company are required to give a thorough "look-through" of the bus to make sure that no child is left on board.
"We do not tolerate that type of conduct by any of our employees," he said.
Lawyers for Cruz and Delvalle were not immediately available.
Sandra Brown, the manager of the school, said Thursday parents and educators were still furious about the girl being left alone.
"There's no excuse for that, no reason for a child to be sitting in a bus alone for four hours," she said. "We're very upset.
"It's total neglect," she added. "They should have checked for that child."
Karla, meanwhile, went to school Thursday but did not take the bus. She was too afraid to leave her mother's side, Leticia Saabedra said.
"She doesn't want to go to school anymore," her mom said. "She's traumatized."