Abu Dhabi school bus tragedy: Family still in shock

The police take driver and the attendant of the bus into custody; burial of three-year-old Nizha Aalaa in Abu Dhabi today.


Olivia Olarte-Ulherr

Published: Fri 10 Oct 2014, 1:22 AM

Last updated: Wed 24 Nov 2021, 3:41 PM

The family of three-year-old Nizha Aalaa, who died after allegedly falling asleep and being locked for nearly six hours inside her school bus on Tuesday, is still in shock, while the police have taken the bus driver and attendant into custody.

Stung by the tragedy which struck despite the clear-cut school transport manual and safety instructions issued by the authorities, the Abu Dhabi Education Council swung into action on Wednesday. The principal and other senior officials of the school which Nizha attended were called for a meeting. The Adec officials also visited the school and made a detailed inquiry.

The Indian girl’s family and residents were in a state of shock on Wednesday. Nazir Ahmed, Nizha’s father, was unable to express his grief while his wife, Nabila, was inconsolable and under sedation. Nazir is from Karnataka in India while Nabila is from Kerala.

Wassim Ahmed, Nizha’s uncle, said the family will hold the burial at 3pm at the Baniyas graveyard today after funeral prayers at the Khalifa mosque.

“We have the paper from the court and we expect the clearance from the police to come tonight to release (Nizha’s) body from the mortuary,” said Wassim.

According to him, Nizha boarded the school bus at 6.30am. Around 12.40pm, Nazir received a phone call from the school informing him that Nizha had an accident.

The parents arrived at the school with the grandfather but were not able to see their child as the police had already secured the area. He said they were informed that the driver and attendant “forgot” Nizha in the bus as she was “sleeping”.

“The principal told them, ‘this is our mistake, we should have called you in the morning. There were many absent and we couldn’t call you at that time’,” he said.

An official of the school said the school takes daily attendance for their record but would usually call parents only after two days of consecutive absence. And since it was the first day of school after the Eid holiday, it was not unusual to have absentees. With over 2,000 students at the school, only half of them attended classes on Tuesday.

As policy, the bus attendant is supposed to mark the students’ attendance as they board the bus and mark them again as they leave.

“She must do this, mark the student when the student leaves the bus, but for sure she did not do this. If she did, she will find one missing,” said the official.

As per the school policy, the bus should have a lady attendant and another lady to supervise them. On the fateful day, however, the supervisor was undergoing training, thus no one double-checked the attendance sheet or the bus.

The driver only found out about Nizha when he was preparing the bus for the students’ return home at midday. Nizha’s class finishes at 12.30pm. As practice, the bus stays parked nearby the school after dropping them off in the morning. Nizha had been left inside the bus in heat for nearly six hours.

The bus service for the school is contracted to a third party company. According to the school official, they started providing transportation services to the school a year ago. Between 700-800 students take the school bus which they pay at Dh3,650 every school year.

Reacting to the incident, Brigadier Hussain Ahmed Al Harthi, Director of Traffic Patrols and also head of the executive committee for school transport, assured a full investigation and offered his condolences to the bereaved family. -olivia@khaleejtimes.com

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