CHICAGO (AP) _ A bus driver who reportedly refused to leave his regular route to take a stricken child to a nearby hospital returned to work for the Chicago Transit Authority five days after the girl's death.

Ben Perry, 32, was reinstated Monday as a substitute driver after being docked some $280 in pay and undergoing retraining, transit officials said.

''I think the man has suffered enough,'' said Michael Cardilli, chairman of the authority. ''I don't think he murdered that child as the press would have everyone believe. From the reports I have read, other than violate some judgement rules, he didn't do anything with malice.''

Robert Desvignes, a transit operations official, declined to reveal Perry's new route assignment ''for fear he would be hounded to death even more than he's been already.''

Nicole Hobson, 9, died Thursday, about 90 minutes after she suffered a heart attack while riding Perry's bus on the North Side.

The girl's mother and another passenger said Perry refused to abandon his route to drive 1 1/2 blocks to Children's Memorial Hospital. Another passenger eventually carried the girl to the hospital.

Perry said he was never asked to drive to the hospital, and did not know its precise location.

Nicole's physician later said the girl probably could not have been saved even if Perry had driven her directly to the emergency room.

The rookie driver was suspended for three days because he failed to obtain instructions over his two-way radio and failured to file a report on the incident, officials said.

Authorities said Perry apparently tried only once to reach his control center on the radio, and stopped when he could not get through because of other traffic on the frequency.