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PELLA, Iowa — Tiffany Spoelstra expected her 3-year-old niece would be dropped off safely when a Pella School District driver picked her up from their home Monday morning.

Instead, the girl was left abandoned by the driver in the school bus lot for two and a half hours.

“Besides God protecting her, I don’t know how she’s alive, but I’m grateful she is,” Spoelstra said.

The girl never made it to class and was buckled into the back of the school district minivan for her entire school day.

Spoelstra said her niece has several serious medical needs, including a heart defect and being nonverbal. She said her condition made it impossible for her to tell the van driver she was still there.

“I fear when she’s not with me. I fear when she’s out of my sight,” said Spoelstra, who is in the process of adopting her niece. “I have a lack of faith in the school.”

Spoelstra said her niece became so upset while in the van that she destroyed her hearing aids. She worries that her niece could have choked on the devices.

“I want them to be liable,” Spoelstra said. “Thankfully they didn’t kill my child, but I want them to be held liable. It’s not just the van driver that committed something horrible.”

Pella Schools Superintendent Greg Ebeling responded to WHO 13’s questions about the incident. He confirmed the driver left the girl in the van and said the driver has since been fired.

Ebeling added that the school district is now installing alarm systems to notify drivers if a child is still in their seat.

The Pella Police Department is also investigating the incident.