Family grateful 4-year-old is safe after found wandering alone in Brooklyn

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Wednesday, August 7, 2019
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Tim Fleischer reports on 4-year-old Nicole Mendez, who is now back safe and sound with her family.

GRAVESEND, Brooklyn (WABC) -- The family of a 4-year-old girl found wandering the streets of Brooklyn alone is speaking out after daycare employees are accused of leaving her in a van.

The little girl was found by a pair of city water employees hours later near Calvert Vaux Park on Monday.

By Tuesday, 4-year-old Nicole Mendez was back safe and sound in her mother's arms.

"My mom was very worried and my mom was very happy after she found her," Nicole's brother Christopher Mendez said about their mother.

Their mom, Jenna, and Christopher spoke about their frightening moments but did not want to show their faces on camera.

They saw video of Nicole with police as officers tried to identify her and find her family.

"One of her friends called her and said she saw her on the news, and her friend was like, 'oh is that your daughter,'" Christopher said.

Nicole was found after police say she was left on a bus that should have taken her to daycare.

Tori Boria and Matthew Alongi both work for the city's Department of Environmental Protection and knew they had to do something when they saw Nicole all alone.

"She wasn't necessarily scared, you could tell she was worried," Boria said.

Nicole's mother said she tried to call the day care center.

"She kept calling the day care and stuff and they didn't pick up or anything," Christopher said.

Police have charged the bus driver, Anatoliy Elkin, and the bus matron, Gilina Zabarnaya, with failure to exercise control of a minor.

"The 76-year-old bus driver and the 63-year-old matron checked off they checked the bus and they never did, half an hour later that young girl is in pajamas roaming the streets," said NYPD Assistant Chief William Aubry.

They pleaded not guilty and were released without bail on Tuesday. Their attorney said it was a terrible mistake, but not a crime.

Bam Bam's Playhouse Daycare Center told Eyewitness News they had no comment.

Nicole's family is just thankful she was safely found.

"My mom, she hugged her and was like crying over her," Christopher said.


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