NEWARK, N.J. — A school bus aide here who crashed a bus on Wednesday with 12 special-needs students aboard and had to be revived with Narcan faces several child endangerment and drug charges, police said.
Lisa Byrd was reportedly transporting the students, who ranged in age from 5 to 13, from Fourteenth Avenue Elementary School in Newark around 1:10 p.m. when she crashed into a tree, according to a news release from Newark Department of Public Safety. The crash occurred about five minutes after Byrd left the school, Newark Public Schools stated in a news release.
Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said in a press conference that Byrd was found to be unconscious at the scene, appeared to be under the influence of a narcotic, and was administered Narcan. He added that police found drug paraphernalia in the bus. (Sources told NBC 4 that Byrd had a bag of heroin in her hand.)
Byrd was taken to the hospital for treatment. The students on the bus, who were “shaken up,” but not injured, Ambrose said, were taken to local hospitals for observation, but were soon released to their parents.
One witness told NBC 4 on Thursday that Byrd looked like she "couldn't move, like she was having a heart attack or a stroke." Family members and Ahmed Mahgoub, the owner of F & A Transportation, the owner of the school bus company that employs Byrd, told the news source that Byrd has several medical conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure.
Byrd was arrested and faces charges of 12 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, driving while impaired, and possession of drug paraphernalia, Ambrose said.
Ambrose added in the press conference that Byrd's driver's license was suspended between 1996 and 2006, but didn’t provide a reason.
“I’m pleased that members of the Newark Police and Fire divisions along with EMS quickly responded and assessed that all the children were safe and unharmed,” Ambrose said. “Driving while impaired is dangerous enough, but adding children to the situation is particularly irresponsible and heinous.”
The Newark Board of Education suspended F & A Transportation’s operation of the route immediately following the accident, according to a statement from Newark Public Schools. That route is being operated by the Newark Board of Education until an investigation has been completed, according to the district’s statement.
F & A's Mahgoub told NBC 4 on Friday that Byrd worked as an aide for the company and was not hired as a driver. She drove the bus on Wednesday because school had let out early due to snow, and the regular bus driver on the route was going to be late. He added that Byrd worked for the company for about one year and the drug tests she took when she was hired all came out negative.
Mahgoub told WABC that fleet managers may not have noticed that Byrd got into the bus and drove away because they were moving buses at the time.
Watch video of the crash obtained by WABC here.