A mother is demanding answers after her 6-year-old daughter was found crying and alone while wandering the streets about a mile from her Staten Island school, where she had been supposed to be dropped off by her regular bus.
"I put her on the bus every morning at 7:50," said mom Jenna Carlsen.
But she said that her daughter Jayde never made it to school on May 27. Instead, she got a phone call from a stranger saying she had found her daughter, who Carlsen didn't even know was missing.
"She goes 'Oh, I have your daughter on Quintard and Mason.' I said you’ve got to have the wrong kid. My daughter don’t go to school over there," Carlsen told NBC New York.
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But it was her daughter. Instead of ending up at P.S. 39 for her day of kindergarten, the young girl was a mile away, scared and alone near Ocean Breeze Park.
"She fell asleep. She’s on the back, back by the emergency exit door behind the driver," said Carlsen.
When Jayde woke up, she found herself inside a locked bus.
"She let herself out from the back and crossed the street to this woman," said Carlsen.
That woman was Ashley Paris, a mother herself who had just dropped her 10-year-old off at school, and was driving home along the isolated side road.
"I seen a little girl hysterical crying, and as soon as I stopped at the stop sign, she ran up to my car and grabbed my car window," said Paris. "And (she) was like 'Please don’t leave me, everybody has left me.'"
Paris got in touch with Carlsen, and drove her daughter home.
"Seeing a child like that knowing that if it was my child, I’d want somebody like me to help her. It was really sad," said Paris.
As for Carlsen, she said of Paris: "I owe this woman my life."
But that's where her words of gratitude end — and anger toward the bus company and driver begin. She is furious that both the driver and the bus matron allowed it to happen on a bus with fewer than 10 kids on board.
"I called the bus driver, cursed him out. Possibly everything that could come out, came out," Carlsen said. "It takes how long to go up the aisle to make sure nobody’s on the bus?... It could have went a totally different way. She could have got some crazy friggin' person that would have kidnapped her."
The driver tried to deny it initially, Carlsen said, never apologized and has since clammed up.
"The bus driver said 'Thank God she’s home safe.' Yeah thank God is right, because I’d be knocking on your front door," Carlsen told NBC New York.
Police confirmed that the irate mother has filed a complaint for child endangerment, and the incident is being investigated. The company that operates the bus, Island Charter Bus Company, no one is talking: A call to the company yielded a 'no comment' before the person hung up.
In reports, the city's Department of Education described the situation as unacceptable and said a new route and driver have been set up for Jayde. There was no word on whether they were still using Island Charter Bus Company, or if the driver and matron are still working with children.
Carlsen said she was told the two were suspended. But she said none of it does her any good, as her daughter is now terrified of going to school.
"She’s been vomiting, and before I told the pediatrician, he asked if anything was wrong, because she’s suffering post-traumatic symptoms," Carlsen said. "It's sad, like I’m supposed to trust you with my kid still?"