2007-11-02 / Front Page

Sleeping Three-Year-Old Abandoned On School Bus

By Nicholas Briano

An unidentified bus driver allegedly abandoned a three-year-old on a small school bus in an Arverne parking lot last Friday, after she and the matron assigned to the bus walked off, leaving the child asleep on the back seat.

Channel Drive Service Station on Beach 59 Street and Beach Channel Drive, where the boy was found. Channel Drive Service Station on Beach 59 Street and Beach Channel Drive, where the boy was found. The child, identified by sources as DJ Montalvo, was on his way to his Head Start pre-school program when he fell asleep on the bus. The driver allegedly pulled the bus into the lot, attached to the Channel Drive Shell Service Station on Beach Channel Drive and Beach 59 Street.

When Montalvo woke up later, he found himself alone on the bus. Confused, but noticeably calm, he exited the bus and walked towards the gas station, where he was initially spotted around 9:15 a.m. by the station's service manager and two postal workers, whose Arverne office is right across the street from the gas station. The three men saw the boy standing between a row of cars parked alongside the service garage.

Robert Guaglione and Walter Smith, the U.S. Postal Service workers who saw the boy, and Channel Drive's service manager, Keith Gaffney, initially thought the boy belonged to a stranger walking by the station, because they simply couldn't imagine a three-year-old boy alone and lost along the busy Beach Channel Drive.

US Postal Service employee, Robert Guaglione initially saw the child wandering through the lot. US Postal Service employee, Robert Guaglione initially saw the child wandering through the lot. "Thank God we all saw the kid because he could have been hit by a car around here," Guaglione said. "It is very busy and cars pull in and out of the lot all morning; it is very fortunate."

When Brad Goodman, co-owner of Channel Drive Service Station, walked into the station's office, the child was sitting there quietly, extremely calm. Goodman asked the child if he could look inside his book bag. Luckily for Montalvo, his family had written his contact information inside the book bag, and Goodman was able to quickly get in touch with his family.

"The family was happy and very grateful that he was okay and didn't get hurt," Goodman said.

Gaffney was primarily concerned about the child's safety and says that everyone was involved in getting the child home.

Channel Drive's Service Manager, Keith Gaffney, also spotted the child and helped get him to his family. Channel Drive's Service Manager, Keith Gaffney, also spotted the child and helped get him to his family. "It was really a group effort; we all just wanted to make sure he was okay, and to contact his parents," Gaffney said.

Gaffney said that all the workers in the gas station know the bus drivers who park in the lot, and that none of them ever seemed like the type that would leave a child sleeping alone in a bus, especially this driver.

"We know the driver pretty well," Gaffney said. "She is a good person who made a mistake, but unfortunately she will have to face the consequences."

Guaglione had similar feelings.

"She is a nice lady, but that is no excuse for what happened here," Guaglione said. "The responsibility of the children is part of their job. It is a sad situation."

The female driver is employed by M&N Transport Company at 5015 Bay Parkway in Brooklyn, Goodman said. As with many drivers who work in the Rockaways, they park the school buses in the lot until the afternoon, instead of driving back to Brooklyn. Therefore, many of the employees know the drivers pretty well.

Montalvo was left on a small school bus, similar to this one, parked in the gated parking lot directly adjacent to Channel Drive Service Station. Montalvo was left on a small school bus, similar to this one, parked in the gated parking lot directly adjacent to Channel Drive Service Station. An official of M&N Transport, however, declined to comment about the incident when contacted by The Wave.

Goodman said that he saw the driver later that morning, when she returned to her bus.

"She was visibly upset about the situation," Goodman said. "She is usually a conscientious driver."

A spokesperson for the Department of Education told The Wave that both the driver and matron have been suspended, pending the outcome of an investigation into the incident. The spokesperson refused further comment and declined to identify either the driver or the matron involved.

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