Bus driver arrested for drinking and driving

May 6, 2011 3:08:02 PM PDT
A bus driver entrusted to transport autistic children to a special needs school has been arrested for drunk driving.

The bus driver ran a red light in the busy intersection, and sheriff's officers say she had half empty can of beer in her lap.

Investigators say she failed a field sobriety test and had a blood alcohol content of .07, well over the legal limit for commercial drivers at .04.

"It's hard for me to believe that she's going to pick up a van, no one's noticing she's under the influence," said Suzanne Albano, a parent.

It was when a school bus ran a red light and almost hit another car, at the intersection of Bloomfield Avenue and Municipal Plaza Thursday afternoon that officers spotted the driver and pulled her over.

When she opened the door they did smell a strong odor of alcohol.

Investigators say 62-year-old Elizabeth Anaya didn't even try to hide her drinking.

"They immediately noticed she had an open can of beer between her legs, while she was driving, and noticed one in one of her pockets," Essex Co. Sheriff Armando Fontoura said.

Anaya was on her way to pick up a half dozen autistic kids from the Sawlette Learning Center in Montclair, when she was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, running a red light and possession of an open container.

"The bus company was notified, they sent somebody else. It's frightening, doubly worse," Fontoura said.

Some parents choose to drive their kids to the school for autistic kids, but still find the incident very upsetting.

"It's disgusting if it happens to kids, and really disgusting with special needs," Albano said.

"It's unfortunate that the school is in the spotlight and they do a wonderful job with these children," said Linda Yainnou, a parent.

Eyewitness News attempted to Anaya reach at her home, but was unsuccessful.

She has been driving a school bus for Hudson County Transport for the last two years.

Eyewitness News spoke with the owner over phone who says she no longer has a job.

"I'm totally outraged. This is unacceptable, and we have zero tolerance for any behavior like this," said Alan Manzo, the owner of Hudson Transport Company.

Manzo says Anaya passed all of her drug and alcohol screenings, including one last month.

"Everything was checked thoroughly regarding her background check, her license," Manzo said.

"She's not supposed to drink and drive with the kids. That's a lot of responsibility," said Erma Gavilnez, a Hudson bus driver.

"A lot of the bus drivers do work hard, that's the sad part," said Patti Miskanick, a bus driver.

Anaya was released on bail.

She has to appear before a judge who will decide whether or not to suspend her license.

The only complaint against her before this was that she was late on her route.

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