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Bergen bus driver who left Downs man alone in garage charged by police, ‘will be terminated’

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A Bergen County community bus driver who left a 34-year-old Ridgewood man with Down syndrome behind on a bus parked in a Lodi garage last night was charged by police and “will be terminated,” authorities said this afternoon.

The 52-year-old driver from Garfield was charged with the disorderly persons offense of “endangering an incompetent person” and must appear in Municipal Court, Jeanne Baratta, the chief of staff for county Executive Kathleen Donovan, told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

“She was suspended without pay, will have a hearing — as per union policy — and will be terminated” for leaving the man on the bus following a pickup at the ARC of Bergen & Passaic in Lodi, Baratta said.

Other stops were made along the way — to other similar facilities — before the driver pulled into the Essex County garage. During that time, the victim apparently fell asleep, Baratta said.

As CLIFFVIEW PILOT exclusively reported last night, the man had been on the bus an estimated 3½ hours when he woke up alone in the garage and called his mother from his cellphone. She, in turn, dialed 911, Baratta said.

Officers from the Bergen County Police Department and Lodi rushed there and got him out through the rear wheelchair exit, she said.

EMS workers checked him out and found him to be OK, Baratta added.

The driver “is entitled to a hearing,” she said, but “won’t be driving for the county anymore.”

“Make no mistake: She won’t be back,” Baratta said. “She didn’t follow the proper protocol. You check the bus for a lot of reasons — for vandalism and, especially, for people. We don’t want her driving any of our buses anymore.”

The non-profit ARC operates a variety of special programs in Hackensack, Elmwood Park and Oakland for children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Baratta said she spoke with an ARC official today “to assure them that something like this will never happen again.”

“We will keep in contact with them and be available to answer any questions they or the parents have,” she said.

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