School bus monitor charged after 6-year-old with special needs dies in bus incident

"She did not deserve this," the child's mother said.

July 21, 2023, 12:11 PM

A school bus monitor is facing charges after a 6-year-old girl with special needs died following an incident on a bus ride in New Jersey, prosecutors said.

The child, who uses a wheelchair, was being transported on a school bus to an extended school year program at a local school in Franklin Township on Monday morning when she became unresponsive, prosecutors said.

During the ride, "a series of bumps in the road caused the 6-year-old to slump in her wheelchair seat making the 4-point harness which secured her to the chair to become tight around her neck, ultimately blocking her airway," the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office said in a statement on Thursday.

The school bus monitor who secured the child to the chair was seated toward the front of the bus at the time and "was utilizing a cellular telephone while wearing earbud headphone devices in both ears," the office said.

"The investigation revealed that this was in violation of policies and procedures," the office said.

Police responded to a school in Franklin Township shortly after 9 a.m. and administered CPR to the unresponsive child, prosecutors said. She was transported to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The Somerset County Prosecutor's Office released the booking photo for Amanda Davila.
Somerset County Prosecutor's Office

Following an investigation, the school bus monitor -- identified by prosecutors as 27-year-old Amanda Davila of New Brunswick -- was arrested on Wednesday and charged with second-degree manslaughter and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, prosecutors said.

She was being held in Somerset County Jail pending a detention hearing, which is scheduled to occur possibly on Tuesday, the prosecutor's office said. It is unclear if she has an attorney who can speak on her behalf. Attempts by ABC News to reach Davila for comment were unsuccessful.

Somerset County Prosecutor's Office Police Chief Francisco Roman told ABC News they are not releasing the child's name at the wishes of her family. An autopsy report is pending, he said.

In an interview with New York ABC station WABC, her parents said the girl was diagnosed with a rare chromosome disability called Emanuel syndrome.

"She did not deserve this, to be taken away from us in such a way that had nothing to do with her condition," her mother, Najmah Nash, told the station.

The child was nonverbal, her father told WABC.

"My daughter, she can't speak, she's helpless," her father, Wali Williams, told the station. "She can't even take the harness off on her own, she can't even take the seat belt off. The only thing she can do is move her arms."

The bus monitor was an employee of Montauk Transit, based in Somerset, New Jersey. The president of the bus company, John Mensch, said in a statement they are "all devastated by the loss" of the child.

"We all extend our deepest condolences to the family and are grieving as a company," Mensch said. "All of our employees know that the safety of children we transport is our top priority, which is why we are fully engaged in the law enforcement investigation and support any punishment that the justice system determines appropriate for the bus monitor who has been arrested."

Franklin Township Public Schools Superintendent John Ravally addressed the child's death in a letter to the school community on Thursday.

"Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with this student's family and friends," Ravally said.

The incident remains under investigation.

Editor's Note: The name of the bus company involved was incorrectly identified by school officials as Montauk Bus Company. It has been updated to reflect the correct name, Montauk Transit.