A school bus monitor in New Jersey has been charged in the death of a 6-year-old girl with special needs who died after a harness securing the child to her wheelchair fatally choked her without the monitor noticing, authorities said Thursday.
Amanda Davila, 26, of New Brunswick, was arrested and charged days after the deadly incident on Monday, Somerset County Prosecutor John McDonald's office said.
Authorities were called to a local school that day for a report of an unresponsive juvenile. When they arrived, officers performed CPR on the child before she was taken to a local hospital's intensive care unit. She was later pronounced dead, McDonald’s office said.
An investigation revealed that the child, who had special needs, was sitting in her wheelchair at the rear of the bus on her way to school. Her wheelchair had been secured by Davila, who was assigned as the school bus monitor, McDonald’s office said.
During the ride, a series of bumps in the roads caused the 6-year-old to slump in her wheelchair, causing the 4-point harness securing her to the chair to tighten around her neck and ultimately blocking her airway, the county prosecutor's office said.
As the tragedy unfolded, Davila was seated towards the front of the bus and had been using a cellphone while wearing earbud headphones, which the county prosecutor's office said was a "violation of policies and procedures."
At some point the girl was found to be unresponsive.
Davila was arrested at the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office without incident on Wednesday, it said. She has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
Davila was being held in the Somerset County Jail pending a detention hearing as of Thursday. It was not immediately clear if she has an attorney.
The family of the girl, who was born with a rare chromosome disorder known as Emanuel syndrome, which made her unable to speak or walk, has vowed to do what they can to ensure something like this never happens again, NBC New York reported.
The child's father, Wali Williams, said the girl "didn’t have oxygen in her brain for almost 40 minutes."
"Do you understand the image that we got in our head of our daughter the last time that we seen her? What we had to go through?” he told NBC New York.
“She was the sweetest kid you’ll ever meet," Namjah Nash Williams, her mother, said. "She had the sweetest little laugh, little dimples and she just endured so much in her six years."
“To be taken away from us in such a way, that had nothing to do with her condition," she said. “This will never ever happen again if I have any say so."