School bus driver abandons children in New Jersey, police say

Thursday, February 13, 2020
Exclusive: Bus driver abandons bus full of children in New Jersey
Toni Yates reports on the bus driver who abandoned a bus full of children in New Jersey.

NEWARK, New Jersey -- A New Jersey school bus driver who abandoned a bus with more than a dozen students still inside was reportedly driving with a suspended license.

Our sister station WABC spoke exclusively Wednesday with a mother and her 11-year-old daughter with special needs after the driver abandoned the girl and several other children on the school bus in Newark.

Amber Easterling was on the bus last Thursday afternoon on her way home from Avon Avenue School when the bus driver stopped dropping students off and instead drove to her home, parked the bus and got out.

"She told the bus attendant that 'you gonna have to handle these kids yourself,'" Amber said.

Amber has been attending Avon Elementary School for approximately three years. Her family said she is thriving in the special education curriculum, winning awards in Special Olympics and bowling.

Every day her mother watches the clock waiting for the school bus which drops Amber off no later than 4 p.m.

Last Thursday, like always, Angele was at home waiting.

"I was cleaning up, getting my daughter's food ready for dinner and I realized it was 4 p.m. and she wasn't home," Angele said.

Around 4:30 p.m., police officers responding to calls of a school bus that had missed designated stops found the bus near Stuyvesant Avenue and Abinger Place, Newark police said.

Fourteen children were on board; none were injured.

The bus driver was issued a summons for driving with a suspended license.

Police took the children to a nearby precinct where parents picked them up.

WABC reporter Toni Yates went to Mercy USA bus company's offices in East Orange where an employee called the company's private line, but the person who picked up the call refused to answer any questions.

Angele attended a meeting Wednesday at the Avon Avenue School. She said the meeting included a representative from Child Protective Services.

Newark Public Schools released a statement saying Mercy USA's contract was canceled:

"The District has removed this vendor from transporting students to Avon Avenue School and is in the process of determining next steps regarding future services. In addition, because established guidelines were not adhered to, the District has also imposed liquidated financial damages for this infraction. This continues to be an active investigation."

"I'm still sick to the stomach because, right now, I'm not letting my daughter take the bus to school," Angele said.

Police said the school bus driver was reportedly unfamiliar with the route.