Bus Driver Takes 26 Children Off Route, Curses and Abandons Them at Gas Station

March 9, 2019 Updated: March 9, 2019

BATH, Pa.—An eastern Pennsylvania school bus driver is facing charges after police allege she drove erratically while under the influence of alcohol with 26 juveniles aboard, then abandoned them and the bus at a gas station.

State police in Bethlehem said Lori Ann Mankos, 44, of Walnutport is charged with 26 counts for child endangerment and one count for driving under the influence and careless and reckless driving.

Mankos was transporting 26 students for the Northampton Area School District on March 8, but was alleged to have been driving erratically while under the influence, police said.

She was driving high and middle school students home when some students noticed she wasn’t going by the route she followed daily and she was also agitated. She flipped off at students and also swore at them, reported the WFMZ News.

“The major thing on the ride that threw everybody off was when there was a right-hand turn and when she took it, she was going far too fast,” student Mason Persiani told WFMZ News.

“She ended up being halfway into the opposing lane of traffic,” Persiani said.

“That was probably the scariest point of the ride, and at the point, my heart was racing. I was pretty nervous.”

“Call the school, this is not even funny,” a female student said in the video. “Pull over!”

At this point, the agitated driver refused to pull the bus over to the side of a road. “She told us to ‘Go [expletive] yourselves,’” Persiani claimed. “And flipped us off, you know, stuck her hand in the air and flipped us off.”

After this, she asked students if they wanted her to stop the bus. “Do you want, if I just pulled over and called everybody’s parents to pick them up?” the driver asked, as seen in the video.

“Yes,” students replied. She eventually parked at a Sunoco station, handed the keys to a gas station employee and walked away from the scene.

The bus and 26 juveniles were left unattended until school officials, Moore Township police, and state police arrived.

Persiani and his 13-year-old brother were picked up by their father, Anthony who told WFMZ News: “I would certainly like an explanation.”

Mankos was later arrested at her home. A listed number for her wasn’t in service Saturday and it’s unclear whether she has an attorney.

Northampton eighth-grader Stephanie Shiller told The (Allentown) Morning Call that Mankos had been transporting her and other students for two weeks. On Friday afternoon, students noticed she wasn’t following her route, missing stops and driving on the wrong side of the road, she said.

“We were freaking out,” Shiller said. “We didn’t know if she was drunk or what.”

A spokesman for the bus contractor, Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student, told the paper that the company is cooperating with investigators. “This is not what we expect of any of our drivers,” he said.

Northampton School District Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik said officials are “extremely upset” but “very thankful” no one was hurt. He said the district has been contracting with the bus company for more than 20 years, and nothing like that has happened before.

NTD News Reporter Venus Upadhayaya contributed to this report.

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