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Little girl left on bus; driver charged


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo by Anthony DelMundo

Police parked a private bus driver in prison after she left her vehicle unattended — with a toddler still aboard.

Officers from the 110th Precinct responded to Christie Avenue and 99th Street in Corona at 9 a.m. on April 12 after receiving a 9-1-1 call from a Con Edison worker who spotted a child in the driver’s seat of a parked bus. Upon arrival at the scene, cops discovered two-year-old Samantha Bustamante abandoned inside the unattended private vehicle, which is operated by Anita Bus Company.

The police proceeded to break a window and remove the toddler, who they believe was left alone for roughly 15 minutes. Bustamante was taken back to the 110th Precinct, where she was reunited with her mother. EMS also responded to the precinct to evaluate the girl and determined she was in good physical condition.

“I was scared – terrified,” said mom Sandra Ramos, 24. “I started crying on the phone, but the police were telling me she was fine. I was terrified for my baby.”

Bustamante was picked up from her Elmhurst home at 7:20 a.m. by the Anita Bus and was supposed to be dropped off at Kathy’s Day Care, located at 97-30 57th Avenue in Corona, at roughly 8:30 a.m. with four other children. However, police say the driver, 62-year-old Ana Garcia, missed the girl while checking the vehicle after the other children departed.

Garcia was arrested by police after she returned to the bus and has been charged with failure to exercise control of a minor. She is also legally forbidden from coming near Bustamante. The NYPD says the Corona resident went home after parking the bus.

Attempts to contact Garcia were unsuccessful as of press time, and Anita Bus’ phone was not accepting incoming calls. Ramos says she paid for Anita Bus through Kathy’s Day Care, but a representative from the center would not comment as to whether they referred the bus service.

When Ramos received a call from the day care center informing her that her daughter had not been dropped off, she immediately called Garcia’s cell phone, but found police on the other end of the line. She initially suspected she was the victim of a practical joke, but her calm quickly turned to panic when the cops’ description matched Bustamante.

The frantic mother was then picked up from her job in Manhattan and brought to the station by police, where she found her daughter playing with officers and serving them coffee.

“When I first saw her, I started crying and I hugged my mom so my daughter wouldn’t see me. I didn’t want her to see the fear I had,” Ramos recollected. “She seemed so unaware – so brave in the situation. I guess she didn’t comprehend what happened so I didn’t want her to see me crying. I hugged my baby as hard as I could.”

Garcia’s son apologized to Ramos at the 110th Precinct, but she still has not been given an explanation for the mishap. She says she provides the bus company with a car seat for her daughter, and she is upset the child was unstrapped and able to walk to the driver’s seat.

“She was not in her car seat. She was walking around and that’s how they saw her,” Ramos said. “She was unbuckled and roaming around in the bus. It just shows their carelessness. Even if she was asleep or not tied in they are also supposed to check the bus. It’s frustrating.”

Despite the fear she initially felt for her daughter’s safety, Ramos is now happy just to have Bustamante safe and sound and is thankful a “good person” spotted her in the bus.
“What if it was someone else who passed by, someone not as good as the 9-1-1 caller – then they could have broken that window and taken my baby. I don’t even want to think about that. I want to think about having her,” Ramos said. “This is like a second chance for my daughter, and I’m just glad that I have her. I’m upset at the situation, but I’m happy with the result because I have my daughter safe.”