Toddler trapped in bus for 2 hours

We found your daughter. Come now.

The call, from a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officer at 11am last Wednesday, was chilling. It drove Mahesh Chulliparambil and his wife into a panic.

They rushed to a carpark in Bishan Street 11.

Their three-year-old girl had been trapped in a school bus after she was unable to get off at her kindergarten.

On Monday, Mr Mahesh, an IT project manager, told The New Paper that his wife had watched their daughter board the bus from the void deck of their Punggol Housing Board block at 7.50am.

But when the bus arrived at the Global Indian International School in Balestier, his daughter could not get off as she had trouble with her seat belt.

Mr Mahesh, 41, added that the driver did not check if everyone had left the bus before driving off. There was also no attendant on the bus that day, he said.

This was confirmed by ComfortDelGro, which had outsourced the service to a private operator.

The driver then drove to Bishan Street 11 and locked the bus - with Mr Mahesh's daughter still inside.

She was found by a passer-by - who called the police and SCDF - at about 10.40am. It was about 11am when the couple received a call about their little girl.

The couple, who are permanent residents from India, immediately drove to Bishan.

When they arrived at the carpark, his wife rushed to the ambulance and police cars.

When Mr Mahesh ran to the ambulance, he saw his daughter smiling at him while watching a video on a mobile phone. It was the biggest moment of relief in his life, he said.

An SCDF spokesman said a cutter was used to cut through the vehicle's glass, and that the girl was rescued unharmed.

A ComfortDelGro spokesman said the incident occurred because of a lapse in standard operating procedures.

She added that the bus driver is a sub-contractor who was aware of the requirement for a bus attendant.

"We will step up enforcement to ensure that these regulations and procedures are strictly adhered to," she said.

This article by The New Paper was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.