Bus driver gets lost with students on board

September 3, 2008 4:07:43 PM PDT
Imagine a bus full of kids, just 5 and 6 years old, lost for five hours. That's what apparently happened Tuesday in Brooklyn. The first day of school was a torture for the kids and for their parents. The driver says he got lost and just drove around.

You can imagine the reaction at the Achievement First Charter School in Brownsville. It was panic, as parents waiting for their children to come home were left wondering where they were. Instead, the children were brought back to their school after a bizarre journey.

Five-year-old Jermaine Brown is happy in his mother's arms once again. But it was after a harrowing bus ride home Tuesday. His mother and grandmother feared he wouldn't make it home at all. Mom Shibisha Lan said she waited for five hours.

Authorities say the driver, 53-year-old Gary Joseph, apparently got lost with the young children and then lost contact with school officials. Finally, he returned the children at 9:20 p.m.

"We had no answers," grandmother Barbara Brown said. "We tried to track the bus. We couldn't find out where the bus was going, where was his next stop, last stop...No one heard from the driver."

Joseph has been suspended from his job and is facing criminal charges. As for Jermaine and the other students, it is unclear how they fared in a boiling hot, running school bus for all that time.

"When we saw my grandson, the tears were coming down," Brown said. "And he's terrified of the bus."

The school's principal released a letter, describing how school officials remained in contact with the driver until 6:40 p.m. They determined at 7 p.m. that the kids could come back to the school. But the letter goes on to say, "Unfortunately, we were not able to contact the bus driver."

A spokeswoman for the school tried to calm parents' fears, but even she could not answer all the questions.

"It's the beginning of the school year," Lesley Esters Redwine said. "We have some bumps on the road, but for the most part, I think, their children will get to school safely."

The driver is facing charges of endangering the welfare of a child. The Department of Education says Joseph had seven years experience on the job.

A lawyer for Joseph's employer, Consolidated Bus Company, called the incident, "absolutely bizarre." The lawyer went on to say that Joseph "will never drive for this company again."

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STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Stacey Sager

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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