A SIX-YEAR-OLD boy left at the wrong stop by a bus driver walked a mile down a busy road by himself while his frantic family searched for him.
Little Cullen Bambridge boarded the Salisbury Reds bus he travels on every day from Wilton and Barford Primary School on Monday.
His mother’s partner Jordan McLaughing was waiting for him at his usual stop at The Avenue, but the bus never turned up.
Mr McLaughing initially thought the bus was running late, but as the minutes ticked by he got worried and set off towards Wilton town centre to try to find Cullen.
After the youngster had been missing for half an hour, Mr McLaughing eventually spotted him crossing the busy Avenue as he tried to find his own way home.
Cullen’s furious mother Melanie Dartnell said: “It’s very distressing for all of us.
“It’s not just the fact that he got off in Wilton, but that he walked along and crossed the road by himself – he’s only just turned six.
“He walked a mile on his own, past a river.
“He could have been picked up by a stranger or fallen in the water.
“I know he’s safe but anything could have happened to him and it has really scared us all.
“At the moment the bus company seems to be passing the buck and I’m concerned in case it happens again. I really just want to know what happened, and how they allowed him to walk all that way on his own.”
Ms Dartnell’s mother Diane Kearney spoke to the bus company and was told the driver was new and didn’t know where Cullen got off.
He asked the youngster if he normally got off in Wilton and Cullen said he did.
Mrs Kearney said: “He’s only six, and he thought it was the last stop so he got off.”
She said the teacher who saw him safely on to the bus told her it was a regular bus driver and if it hadn’t been then the school would have ensured the driver knew where Cullen was to be dropped off.
Headteacher Jan Nock said: “There isn’t a regular bus driver but it was one of the regular drivers who has done the route before.”
Mrs Kearney said the situation was made worse by the fact that the bus didn’t go down The Avenue so there was a delay before anyone realised Cullen was missing.
“If it had gone down The Avenue my son-in-law would have seen there was no one on the bus and called the police,” she said.
Andrew Sherrington, Salisbury Reds operations manager, said: “I am aware of an incident on Monday, where a young boy left a Salisbury Reds bus before his usual stop.
“The safety of all our passengers is a primary concern for us – and we are taking this report very seriously.
“We are conducting a full investigation.
“We believe, after initial discussions, that this event was the result of a misunderstanding between the boy and the driver - neither of whom were familiar to each other.
“If this is found to be the case, we will look at ways to work even more closely with the council to try and ensure that no such incidents can occur in the future.”