A schoolgirl from a Moscow suburb had to spend seven hours in freezing –10 C (14 F) weather, after she was reportedly turfed off a bus because she didn't have the fare. The driver might face criminal charges for leaving a child in danger.
Nine year-old Zhenya Melnikova left her music lessons at a Moscow art school at 4 pm on Monday. When 5 hours later she was still not home her parents reported her missing to the police.
Officers joined by volunteers searched for the girl until midnight when she was eventually found at a railway station.
The girl told police she got on a shuttle bus after school. For some reason, which is not yet clear, the girl didn’t have with her the 40 roubles (US$1.30) her mother usually gave her to pay the fare, nor a mobile phone. Despite Zhenya’s young age and the freezing cold outside, the driver allegedly ordered the child to get off.
She had to walk from 5 pm to midnight to reach a railway station where she was spotted by a security guard, who called the police.
Russia’s Investigative Committee promptly opened a criminal case against the driver.
“We will by all means find the scoundrel and will hold him liable for leaving a child in danger according to article 125 of the Russian Criminal Code,” said the Committee’s Spokesman Vladimir Markin in his twitter @VladimirMarkin.
Eleven drivers that were working that day on the bus route have been brought in for questioning said the police according RIA Novosti news agency. According to ombudsman Pavel Astakhov the girl failed to recognize the person who ordered her off the bus.
"Unfortunately, Zhenya hasn’t identified the offender yet. The work of the investigators is under way. The people traveling together with Zhenya and having seen the brutal actions of the driver, do you have any shame or conscious? At least now respond!" Astahov tweeted on @RFdeti.
The Chairman of the Public Chamber on the Safety of Citizens and Anatoly Kucherena said more should be done to find the culprit.
“The situation must be clarified. Were there other passengers on the bus? Why no one stood up for the child? There must have been a dialogue between the girl and the driver ... Yes, it turned out that the child did not have the money, is it a question of principle? Did the child have to be thrown out into the cold like a kitten? I am very concerned about the indifference and callousness of the people and their unwillingness to help. This is a serious problem in our society," said Kucherena according RIA Novosti.
It’s not the first case of its kind in Russia. In December 2012
in the Siberian city of Barnaul a disabled man spent twelve hours
in -40 C (-40F). He lost his fingers and died three months later
from a blood clot. A policeman who refused to help the man is now
facing five years behind bars.
In October 2011 a schoolboy in Nizhny Novgorod was put off a bus because he didn’t have his bus pass with him. The boy died that same day on his way home after being hit by a train.
In January 2013, in Kirov another 9-year-old was taken off a bus. The boy did have money to pay the bus fare, but refused to pay for the heavy school bag he had with him. It was -25 C (-13 F) outside and the child fell seriously ill. The conductor who ordered the boy off the bus faced “beating” charges.
A week after that, an 11-year-old in Bratsk was forced off a bus after he was mistakenly accused of using a fake bus pass.