YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A 34-year-old Ridgewood man with Down syndrome was left alone for several hours on a Bergen County community transportation bus parked for the night in a Lodi garage yesterday before he called his mother and police rescued him.
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.
“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, Jeanne Baratta, the chief of staff for county Executive Kathleen Donovan, told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
Other stops were made along the way — to other similar facilities — before the driver pulled into the Essex County garage.
Officers from the Bergen County Police Department and Lodi rushed there a short time earlier, after the man called his mother on his cellphone from the bus and she, in turn, dialed 911, Baratta said. They got him out through the wheelchair exit, she said.
EMS workers checked him out and he was fine.
The driver “is entitled to a hearing” but “won’t be driving” until it is completed, Baratta added. “He didn’t follow the proper protocol. You check the bus for a lot of reasons — for vandalism and, especially, for people.”
Baratta said she didn’t know where the bus ride originated or exactly how long he was left in the garage.
However, a source with direct knowledge of the incident told CLIFFVIEW PILOT it was at least 3½ hours. The man apparently had fallen asleep and woke up alone in the bus in the garage around 6 p.m.
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.