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School Bus Driver, Unfamiliar With Route, Gives Kids a Scare

A Westport school bus driver, a last-minute substitute who was unfamiliar with his route, gave some Saugatuck Elementary School pupils and their parents a scare Tuesday, police said today.

Police said they were alerted to a problem at 3:45 p.m. by a parent who said her 9-year-old daughter had called from her school bus to say the driver was behaving erratically and may be drunk.

Investigating officers instead found driver Francisco Valiente, 55, of Stratford, was simply confused about his route.

“He was not familiar with the streets, he was holding a map and trying to drive, and the kids were trying to help him by shouting instructions,” said Sgt. David Kassay, a police spokesman.

“Some of the kids were upset and crying.”

When police arrived at an upper Main Street address where the bus had stopped, they found his Dattco company supervisor already on the scene.

Police said the driver did not speak English very well and that may have contributed to the confusion.

The parent whose daughter had called her from the bus had told the driver to remain there until police arrived.

The supervisor then drove the bus and delivered the children to their homes, Kassay said. Also on the bus was Saugatuck Principal Robert Buckley.

Schools Supt. Elliott Landon said the driver was a last-minute substitute for another driver who had called in late or sick.

“He got lost, stopped the bus and radioed in for instructions and help,” he said.  “It’s unfortunate, but it happens from time to time that drivers get lost.”

Landon added, “Needless to say, the driver doesn’t drive for us any more.”

Lou Gagliano, a Westport resident, happened to be driving by when the incident occurred.

“It was a mess,” he told WestportNow.

“You had ths school bus stopped in the middle of the road with a van blocking it and four women, presumably mothers of kids on the bus, yelling at the driver who obviously was lost and couldn’t speak English very well.”

Gagliano said he pulled to the side of the road and began to direct traffic as cars backed up.

“One of the women had pulled her van in front of the bus so it couldn’t move,” he said.  “I told them to call the police and told the woman to move her van.”

He said he estimated there were more than 30 children on the bus at the time, many of them crying.

“They clearly felt that they were at some risk,” Gagliano said.

He said Peter Isabel, the school’s transportation director, arrived on the scene promptly and was able to calm down the students.

“I don’t honestly know how it could have happened logistically,” Gagliano said.

A call to the Dattco Westport office was not returned.

8 thoughts on “School Bus Driver, Unfamiliar With Route, Gives Kids a Scare

  1. The Board of Ed needs to demand a full explanation of this.

    I, too, thank you WestportNow for telling us about this.

    Westport is so lucky to have its own online CNN.

  2. How were we to learn about such outrageous incidents if not for WestportNow.com?  When was the school superintendent planning on telling parents about this? Thank you, WestportNow.

  3. You have to wonder how well trained the drivers are,  To be driving a bus and looking at a map while driving boggles the mind.

    Not only should the driver be fired, the bus company should be fined, and if it happens again
    Dump the company too.

  4. Interesting that neither the Minuteman nor the Westport News thought this was news—thank you again, WestportNow for bringing us news that others can’t/won’t/don’t know about.

  5. We have had many problems with our children’s bus drivers. They speed, stop short and miss stops. These drivers are holding precious cargo- get a new bus company!

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