Driver arrested in death of student with autism left on hot bus

WHITTIER, Calif. -- A Whittier school bus driver has been arrested in the death of a student with autism, who was left in the vehicle on a hot day last year, police said.

The Whittier Police Department said bus driver Armando Ramirez, 37, was arrested Wednesday afternoon at his home in Apple Valley. He was booked at the Whittier police jail for dependent abuse, with bail set at $50,000.

His arraignment is expected on Friday in Bellflower Court.

Paul Lee, 19, died in September 2015 when he was left on a school bus on a sweltering hot day. He was so disabled that he was unable to seek help, officials said.

Lee's family has a pending lawsuit against the bus company, Pupil Transportation Cooperative and the Whittier School District.

In a discovery document filed in that case, the bus company admitted the conduct of its driver was a cause of death.

The company also said it was planning to install a system in which a bus operator must swipe a device in the back of the vehicle to confirm it has been cleared of students.

Brian Panish, the attorney representing the Lee family, released the following statement:

"We are pleased that the Whittier Police Department has taken the first step to hold bus driver Armando Ramirez accountable for his role in the death of Paul Lee. We will continue to pursue justice for the Lee family and remain diligent in our fight to change bus safety policies and procedures in order to avoid a senseless tragedy like this from ever happening again."
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