School bus driver Lori Ann Mankos also was charged with 26 counts of endangering the welfare of children
The students had no idea they’d be abandoned and their school bus driver would be charged with driving under the influence as they boarded just before 3 p.m. Friday for their rides home from Northampton Area High School and Middle School in Pennsylvania.
At first the driver seemed agitated, 16-year-old Mason Persiani told TV station WFMZ in Allentown.
Video taken inside the bus captures a growing panic among the passengers as the bus swerved.
“There was a turn, a right-hand turn, and when she took it, she was going far too fast,” he said. “She ended up being halfway into the opposing lane of traffic … . That was probably the scariest point in the ride. At that point my heart was racing.”
Says another unidentified student heard on the video: “Call the school. I am like, this is not even funny.” Initial joking about the driver turned into a cry of “Pull over!”
According to Persiani, the driver allegedly raised her middle finger to the students and told them, “Go f— yourselves.”
“She said, ‘You kids are making me quit my job after two weeks,'” said eighth-grader Stephanie Shiller, reports The Morning Call newspaper. “She drove over a bunch of potholes. I thought I was gonna fall outta my seat. I almost hit my head on another seat.”
According to the video from inside the bus, the driver said, “Do you want if I just pulled over and called everybody’s parents to pick them up?”
“Yes!” students responded.
Driver Lori Ann Mankos, 44, did so — pulling into a Sunoco gas station, handing the keys to a station employee, and then walking off.
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“She opened the back doors and told us all to get out,” said Shiller. “After I got off, I looked back and that’s when I saw her running away from the bus and just leaving us there.”
Schiller’s father, Stephen Scholler, told the newspaper: “If the kids are giving you a hard time, you don’t just abandon them like that. You’re the adult. You call for another bus and wait there until that bus arrives.”
Mankos was arrested at her home Friday evening and charged with DUI, reckless driving, careless driving, and 26 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, according to court records reviewed by PEOPLE. She was unable to pay her $100,000 bond and remained jailed Monday in Northampton County.
It could not be determined if she’d retained an attorney to speak on her behalf, nor if she has entered a plea. She is due back in court March 15.
“Nothing like this has ever happened before in my 28 years with the district,” Northampton School District Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik told the Morning Call. He added: “We’re extremely upset by this, but very thankful that none of the students were hurt.”
A spokesman for the bus contractor, Cincinnati-based First Student, which employs the driver, told the outlet: “This is not what we expect of any of our drivers.”
“Our first priority is the safety of the students, which is why we sent a reliever bus to pick them up and take them to their homes once we found they were stranded,” said the spokesman, Jay Brock. “All students are safe and accounted for. If there’s appropriate action warranted against the driver as a result of this investigation, that action will be taken.”