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‘To Be Taken Away… In Such a Way’: Family Says Wheelchair-Bound 6-Year-Old Went Without Oxygen for ’40 Minutes’ As She Suffocated on a Bus After Allegedly Being Neglected By School Monitor

A New Jersey school bus monitor was charged with manslaughter after authorities say she neglected to keep her eye on a 6-year-old with special needs in her charge who suffocated under a bus harness on the way to school.

The child, Fajr Williams, boarded a bus Monday morning headed to an extended school year program outside of New York City. Her 27-year-old monitor, Amanda Davila, secured Fajr in her wheelchair at the back of the bus and then proceeded to sit toward the front with her earbuds in both ears and eyes on her phone, authorities say.

Fajr Williams (left) died after suffocating on a bus as her school monitor, Amanda Davila (right), didn’t notice her choking, authorities say. (Photos: YouTube/CBS New York, Somserset County Prosecutor’s Office)

On the way to school, the bus drove over several bumps in the road which caused Fajr to slump in her wheelchair. The four-point harness strapped to her chair tightened around her neck, making it difficult for her to breathe, according to the Somerset County prosecutor.

Fajr’s parents reported that the young girl was diagnosed with Emanuel Syndrome as a baby, a rare chromosome condition that left Fajr unable to speak or walk.

“She didn’t have oxygen in her brain for almost 40 minutes. Do you understand the image that we got in our head of our daughter the last time that we seen her? What we had to go through?” her father, Wali Williams, told NBC New York.

First responders were called to Claremont Elementary School after the child was found unresponsive. They performed CPR before rushing her to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Davila was subsequently charged with second-degree manslaughter and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child. Prosecutors say Davila violated “policies and procedures” when she was wearing her earbuds and looking at her phone. She is currently being held at Somerset County Jail awaiting a detention hearing.

“She was the sweetest kid you’ll ever meet,” Fajr’s mother, Najmah Nash, told reporters this week. “She had the sweetest little laugh, little dimples and she just endured so much in her six years. To be taken away from us in such a way that had nothing to do with her condition.”

Nash, 38, told The New York Times she was “devastated” when she learned of Davila’s negligent actions.

“It was very hurtful. It was very distasteful,” Nash said.

She pressed the Franklin Township Board of Education to survey the transportation companies they contract with “to ensure that they’re going to take care of our children.” The bus Fajr was riding on is owned by Montauk Transit in Somerset, which partnered with the board. The Times said the company directed inquiries to Orange County Transit, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“There’s only so much that parents can do. This will never ever happen again if I have any say so,” Nash noted.

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