NEWARK, N.J. — A school bus aide who is facing charges related to child endangerment, impaired driving, and drug possession after crashing a school bus pleaded not guilty in court on Wednesday.
As SBF previously reported, Lisa Byrd was reportedly transporting 12 special-needs students because school was dismissed early due to snow, and the regular route driver was going to be late. Byrd allegedly crashed the bus into a tree. When first responders arrived on the scene, they found her unconscious, Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said in a press conference.
Ambrose added that Byrd apparently was under the influence of a narcotic, and first responders administered Narcan. He also said in the press conference that police found drug paraphernalia in the bus. Ahmed Mahgoub, Byrd’s employer, as well as some family members, told news sources that she has diabetes and high blood pressure.
Mahgoub told WPIX a day after the crash that he wasn’t made aware of any evidence that Byrd was using illegal drugs, despite what investigators claim. He added that she had told him about a medical issue related to a diabetic condition, and that she’d mentioned that her diabetes medication wasn’t working, so he suspected that her blood sugar dropped.
Mahgoub also told the news source that Byrd "made her own decision" to drive the bus.
Byrd entered a plea of not guilty in her first court appearance on Wednesday morning, News 12 reports.
Public Defender Chris Rojas, who is representing Byrd, argued that she is not a flight risk because she is a lifelong resident of Essex County, has daughters, and has had no serious criminal record, and should not remain in jail until her next court date, which is March 18. The assistant prosecutor argued Byrd had no legitimate school bus driver training and emphasized her alleged drug use, according to News 12.
Byrd said that she had a diabetic episode, which Narcan has been used for in the past, the news source reports.
The judge determined that the alleged drug use made Byrd a threat to the community, so she will be held until her next court appearance, according to News 12. Byrd was given seven days to appeal the decision.