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Madison bus driver saves toddler in diapers wandering streets alone

Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 10:06 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A bus ride quickly turned into a rescue after a driver found a toddler in diapers crossing the street alone.

NBC15 obtained dashcam footage of Madison Metro Transit bus 957, which during a commute Sunday afternoon showed the driver suddenly stepping on the brakes, pulling over and getting out.

Darrell Gugel, a bus driver of 22 years, had been approaching the intersection of Melody Lane and Crest Line Drive on Madison’s north side.

“He was just coming across the street at the time as I was coming down the hill,” he said.

The footage shows a toddler wearing no clothes or shoes, stumbling onto the road and charging to the other side of the street. Off camera, the child can be heard crying.

“When I went to him, he just held his arms out,” Gugel said. “When I picked him up, he just bear hugged me and just [wouldn’t] let go.”

He then brought the child aboard and told passengers, “We’re going to be here for a bit. I don’t know where this little kid lives, and there’s nobody out here.”

A passenger asked, “By himself?”

The dashcam then captured Gugel putting the toddler on the driver’s seat. Gugel explained, “I didn’t know what to do, so I put him on the bus and that all the buttons and stuff on there.”

Since the child was first shown on the dashcam, a little over a minute passed before someone ran up to the bus. Gugel said he assumed the person was a relative because he was “frantic.” He then described seeing the toddler go up the street and around the bend, a stretch where cars move quickly and appear almost out of nowhere.

“Driving the rest of the day, I was fuming how something that little can wander as far as he did for as long as he did without anybody seeing,” Gugel said. Despite not knowing the child, or even his name, the driver made a personal connection to the rescue.

“I got two young granddaughters too that I worry about when stuff like this happens,” he said. “But it ended well, so I guess that’s the important thing.”

The toddler’s family was not identified, but a public information officer with the Madison Police Department said incidents in which children are wandering the streets alone are “thankfully” rare.

The officer continued to say the lesson is not only for guardians to be extra watchful but also for drivers to remain vigilant, especially with school back in session.

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