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19-Year-Old Student With Special Needs Found Dead On School Bus In Whittier

WHITTIER (  —  Authorities on Saturday identified the young man who was found dead in a parked school bus in Whittier on Friday.

Authorities identified the man as Hun-Joon Lee, a 19-year-old student with special needs who studied at the Sierra Education Center.

His body was discovered by a bus driver around 4:20 p.m., reports KCAL9's Erica Nochlin.  The driver who discovered the body attempted to give the teen CPR but to no avail.

The school district won't say if the student showed up for class Friday but Nochlin reported that he never arrived home.

The bus -- owned and operated by a company called Pupil Transportation -- was located in the parking lot of Whittier Union High School District (the 9400 block of Greenleaf Avenue.)

The teen -- who attended Sierra Educational Center's Transition Program -- was declared dead at the scene. The boy's parents have been notified.

Whittier police said they are checking all possibilities but said it appears to be an accident.

"It's a very tragic accident," said Brad White of the Whittier Police Department," for all involved, especially the family."

Police said when the teen failed to return home at 4 p.m. -- as he was supposed to -- his mother notified the school, who, in turn notified the bus dispatch.

Drivers told Nochlin the 36-year-old driver involved is distraught and that it was purely an accident. Police detained the driver for questioning but later released him. (They wouldn't comment on whether negligence charges could be filed later.)

Whittier resident Tim McDermott is familiar with the bus service.

'I've lived in Whittier all my life, Pupil Transportation has been part of Whittier School District forever, as far as I can remember. In that type of a job, I think the last thing you wnt to do is hurt somebody you know," McDermott said.

On Friday evening, Sandy Thorstenson, superintendent of the Whittier School District, issued the following statement:

"The student's name and the circumstances of his death are not being released by the District out of respect to the family. The District is still working to obtain information about the situation, since it was not a District bus. The District does not own buses nor does the District employ bus drivers. As such, media is asked to contact the Whittier Police Department about the details of the incident and the investigation."

The superintendent added ,"This tragedy has devastated all of us. We are still gathering information about what happened. The District is calling for a speedy and thorough investigation to determine how something like this could happen. 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."

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