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Lisa Byrd, 57, of East Orange, was arrested after she crashed a bus carrying 12 special-needs students into a tree in New Jersey
Police said Byrd appeared to be under the influence of a narcotic, and said that drug paraphernalia were found at the scene
Family members, however, said Byrd had several medical conditions. Her boss said she was "not [the] kind of person" who used drugs
A woman who was revived with Narcan after crashing a school bus in New Jersey wasn’t the kind of person who would use drugs or get behind the wheel impaired, and had several medical conditions, family members and the owner of the bus company that employed her said.
Lisa Byrd, 57, of East Orange, was arrested after she crashed a bus carrying 12 special-needs students into a tree in New Jersey on Wednesday.
Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said first responders found Byrd unconscious at the scene. Byrd appeared to be under the influence of a narcotic, and police found drug paraphernalia at the scene, Ambrose said. Sources told News 4 she had a bag of heroin in her hand.
The owner of F&A Transportation, the company that employed Byrd, told News 4 Byrd actually worked as an aide for the company and was not hired as a driver.
Byrd drove the bus on Wednesday because school let out early due to snow. The bus' regular driver was going to be late, the owner, Ahmed Mahgoub, said.
"[A]t the end of the day, I hold her responsible. She drove without any authorization,” Mahgoub said.
But Mahgoub said he couldn’t see Byrd using drugs, let alone getting behind the wheel under the influence. Byrd has worked for the company for about a year, he said.
“She’s not that kind of person,” he said, adding that the drug tests Byrd took when she was hired were all negative. “I see her everyday — she’s fine.”
Family members told News 4 Byrd takes medication for a variety of illnesses, including diabetes and high blood pressure.
She also recently recovered from a stroke, a family member said.
"My mother loved the kids," her son told News 4 New York Thursday. "She got a bag of snacks on the bus, she spent money out of her pocket, to give kids snacks and keep them at ease on the bus."
"I don't believe it," he added of the allegations she'd been using drugs. "Like, my mom in the past, '90s, maybe. But that's my mom, you know? And I wouldn't want to see her in that light."
One witness on Wednesday told News 4 Byrd looked as if she "couldn't move, like she was having a heart attack or a stroke."
Byrd was taken to University Hospital for treatment, Ambrose said. She has been charged with 12 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving while impaired, he said. It wasn't immediately clear if she had an attorney.
Ambrose said Byrd's driver's license was suspended between 1996 and 2006, but couldn't immediately say why it had been suspended.
The children on the bus were "shaken up" and taken to local hospitals for observation, but released to their parents soon after, Ambrose said. The crash is under investigation.