ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Five-year-old Elija Hinger is an active, curious kindergartner at New Heights Elementary in St. Petersburg.
Monday afternoon at dismissal, he hopped on a bus instead of waiting for his mom.
So when April Wise arrived to pick him up, he wasn’t there.
“I waited 10 minutes and I’m like, ‘he’s still not here. Where is my son?'” she asked.
She didn’t know about the bus ride. April called her husband, Chris, at work.
“She said, ‘the school lost Elija,’” said Chris Wise.
Chris couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“I started freaking out. I ran upstairs and I told my boss, I said, ‘I gotta go!’ He said, ‘why?’ I said, ‘they lost my son,’” he said.
Before Chris got to the school, some good news arrived. Elija had gotten off the bus a few blocks away.
An alert parent noticed and flagged down a St. Petersburg police officer, who drove him back to school.
“Whoever it is out there, thank you so much for doing that good deed because I don’t know where he would be right now,” said April.
“There was a very good Samaritan. I want to thank you for helping me save my son,” said Chris.
A Pinellas Schools spokesperson issued this statement:
“Pinellas County Schools is troubled by the incident at New Heights Elementary. School staff will work to understand what occurred and ensure dismissal plans are followed.”
Elija’s reason for getting on the bus?
“He said he just wanted to ride the school bus today,” said Chris.
The principal called Elija’s mom and apologized about this incident.
She’s being promised better protocols, but April plans to move her son to a closer school.
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