Ottawa parents demand answers after boy, 11, not dropped off by school bus

An Ottawa family is demanding answers after their son went missing for five hours following his pickup from school on Monday.

The parents say their son Nathan, an 11-year-old Grade 6 student, wandered around an unfamiliar neighbourhood for hours until a Good Samaritan intervened and helped him get home safely.

The student got into the school transport minivan that normally takes him home from Pierre Elliott Trudeau Catholic elementary school in Barrhaven, but the driver didn’t take him home.

"He was supposed to be home as usual at about 20 minutes after four, and then we noticed by 4:50 he wasn't home yet," Nathan’s father said.

The parents do not want to be identified because of the nature of their work.

About 30 minutes after Nathan’s usual drop-off time, the parents contacted Roxborough Bus Lines.

"They called the driver and the driver said they never picked our son up after school. They said he never went into the van."

Other parents, however, said they had seen Nathan get into the van. For unknown reasons, the driver of the van did not go to Nathan’s stop. Instead, she drove home, leaving Nathan alone in the vehicle despite him asking where they were going and banging on the windows. Parents suggested the driver was distracted by music.

"She's actually driving me to her apartment, which I did not know," Nathan told CTV News Ottawa on Friday. "I managed to get out of the van when she parked, but I didn't know which apartment building she went to.”

Nathan’s parents visited the school and contacted Ottawa police, who reported Nathan missing and put out a news release with his photo.

"The police went to the driver's house. She was adamant she never picked him up," Nathan's father said. "They searched the apartment, he wasn't there. They searched the van, he wasn't in the van."

Nick McRae, the owner and president of Roxborough Bus Lines, told CTV News the company is aware of the situation and cooperating with police as they continue their investigation. He said the driver has been suspended until the company receives more information from the police investigation.

A spokesperson for the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est said school staff took immediate action when they learned a child had not made it home from school.

“As soon as the CECCE administration was made aware that a child had not made it back home after school, actions were taken to support the family and the search efforts to find him as soon as possible,” the board said in a statement. 

“In fact, teachers from École catholique élémentaire Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau searched the surrounding areas and a letter was sent to the school community. Social media posts including the child’s picture were also shared on the CECCE’s accounts.”

 After walking around Westboro alone for hours, Nathan finally found help at the Tunney's Pasture light rail transit station, 19 kilometres away from his Barrhaven school. 

"I was very tired and I found this guy waiting for his Uber and I asked him, 'Hey, can you Google this place?'" Nathan said.

That man was Dave Ellis, who was on his way home from a gathering downtown.

"He kind of made his way up to me very cautiously and he said, 'Can you help me?' And I said, OK, sure," Ellis said.

Nathan's family is new to Ottawa, and he didn't know his parents’ phone numbers. Nathan knew his neighbourhood and street name, so Ellis helped bring the child home.

"I got the driver to change the route and we took him home first and then brought me home," Ellis said.

"It's just very nice of him to allow me in the Uber and pay for it so he can drive me there," Nathan said.

Although Nathan is safe and back home, his parents are still looking to understand what happened.

"When I found out he was back, I was pretty relieved," Nathan's mom said. "But we're still left without any answers."

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Graham Richardson and Michael Woods