Special needs student found dead on empty school bus is identified


A 19-year-old found unresponsive and alone on a school bus has been identified as a special needs student who regularly rode the bus to his home in Whittier.

The student, who was found slumped in the bus’ aisle and pronounced dead after lifesaving efforts failed, was identified as Hun Joon Lee, according to Los Angeles County Coroner’s Lt. David Smith.

Police arrived about 4:23 p.m. Friday at the Sierra Education Center to find several bus drivers attempting CPR on the young man. The officers took over the lifesaving effort, without success. Lee was pronounced dead about 10 minutes after police arrived.


Police are treating the death as suspicious because “nothing that we’ve learned so far would lead us to believe he had any medical conditions,” said Brad White, a spokesman for the Whittier Police Department.

There were no signs of trauma on Lee’s body, and no weapons were found at the scene, White said.

The teen typically left school on the bus around 2:30 p.m. and arrived home at 4, White said. When he didn’t show up Friday, his mother called the school, which then called the bus company. A driver went out to the bus yard and found Lee slumped in the aisle of the parked bus, White said.

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The bus driver was held for questioning and later released, White said. No arrests have been made. Investigators said they are in the process of interviewing people who may have had contact with Lee during the day, White said.

Lee attended the center, which has a transition program dedicated to adult students with special needs, said Valerie Martinez, Whittier Union High School District spokeswoman.

Whittier Union High School District Supt. Sandra Thorstenson issued a written statement of condolence.

“Our hearts are with our student’s parents and family — we’re all grieving. We’re making ourselves, our counseling services and our staff available to his family and to our students and staff who were close to him,” she wrote.


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