Drivers are crucial partners in finding lost and missing persons
A Riverside Transit Agency (RTA) coach operator is being praised for reuniting a runaway teen with her family --- another example of how bus drivers do more than move people from place to place.
It was evening when Ida Castillo stopped her Route 3 bus in Eastvale and welcomed aboard a young girl who said she needed a lift somewhere far away. The teen looked distressed and without a purse or bags, she wasn’t exactly prepared for travel. Knowing something wasn’t quite right, the driver talked to the girl and quickly learned that she had run away from home.
“Poor thing,” Ida said. “I’m a mother and grandmother and I didn’t like the idea of her wandering around out there in the dark all alone. I was reassuring to her, and offered her water and food out of my own lunch pail. All I could think about was keeping this girl safe.”
Thanks to Ida’s quick thinking, the girl remained safe on the bus until police arrived and were able to reunite the 12-year-old girl with her worried family.
RTA’s Chairman of the Board Art Welch applauded the driver for a job well done: “This was a team effort that resulted in a very positive outcome,” said Welch, who is also a member of the Banning City Council. “Ida Castillo was a crucial part of this effort, which tested her customer service, vigilance and attention to detail.”
Fact is, bus drivers do much more than just get people to their destinations. Over the past two years, RTA bus drivers have helped find more than 40 missing persons and nearly 100 teens in crisis.
With 4,000 runaways each year in Riverside County, RTA continues to partner with Riverside’s non-profit Operation SafeHouse, which helps runaway and homeless children. Each of RTA’s fixed-route vehicles displays a yellow “Safe Place” sign that enables children to get transportation to the shelter without question and free of charge. RTA has worked with Operation SafeHouse since 1997.
“The partnership between RTA and SafeHouse has been a godsend for teens living in this region,” said SafeHouse Director Fonda McGensy. “Bus drivers are on the front lines of our efforts to find these teens and get them to a safe place.”
As for bus drivers like Ida Castillo, it’s all part of the job.
“We pay a lot of attention to our customers and we’re always on the lookout for people in need,” she said. “A little humanity and concern can go a long way.”
UPDATED: RIVERSIDE, CA — June 29, 2018