On Thursday state Sen. Tony Mendoza from California presented a replica of the school bus safety bill he introduced last year to the parents of a Whittier, Calif., teen with Autism who died after being left on a school bus on a sweltering day, according to the Whittier Daily News.
Hun Joon “Paul” Lee, 19, who was non-verbal, was left alone on a bus in a Whittier Union High School District lot for about seven hours on a sweltering day in September 2015.
The coroner’s investigation determined that Lee died as a result of hyperthermia, and his death was ruled accidental, authorities said.
Lee’s parents, Eun Ha Lee and Sang Sik Lee, expressed gratitude for the gift of a framed copy of the signatures on the piece of legislation, called the Paul Lee School Bus Safety Law, along with photos of Mendoza and the Lees at press conferences and at the hearings for the bill.
“To commemorate the year of working together to make this bill a reality, I wanted to present this gift as a reminder of the work we did together,” Mendoza, D-Cerritos, told the parents in his office.
The bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Jan. 1, requires all school buses in California to be equipped with a child-safety alarm system in the back of the vehicle that must be turned off by the bus driver, ensuring the driver checks each seat.
Bus drivers, upon renewal of their annual school bus driver safety certificate, will be required to receive training in child-safety check procedures.
The new law will go into effect beginning in the 2018-19 school year.
Caught up in the emotions of remembering her son, Eun Ha Lee said, “This is a beautiful present, but it is still very sad,” as she gently rubbed the side of the frame she held.
“Nothing can replace my son, but with this bill he is protecting others,” she said. “I thought he would do great things in this life, but I could never believe it would be something like this.”
Mendoza told the Lees their testimony helped sway his colleagues to vote for the bill.
“Paul’s name is forever ingrained in our history,” said Mendoza.
The driver who left the teen on the bus, Armando Abel Ramirez, 37, of Apple Valley, pleaded guilty in January to a count of felony dependent adult abuse resulting in death, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
He was sentenced to two years in prison.
The Lees have filed a lawsuit for wrongful death against PTC and the school district, which states Paul Lee was never dropped off at school and remained on the bus for approximately seven hours until his body was found.
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