A Central Islip woman was arrested Monday after she was allegedly high on drugs and crashed into a school bus transporting disabled children, causing the bus to catch fire, Suffolk County police said.
Tyajia Anthony, 29, of 27 East Cedar St., was arraigned Sept. 19 and ordered held on $10,000 bail or $30,000 bond after being charged with reckless assault, first-degree operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs and third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
Police said Anthony was driving a 1996 Jeep along Connetquot Avenue at 8:05 a.m. on Wednesday, when her vehicle crossed from the southbound to the northbound lanes near Ridge Avenue in Central Islip.
After crossing the double yellow line onto the wrong side of the road, the Jeep struck a school bus in a head-on collision, which caused both to catch fire.
The school bus, operated by Suffolk Transportation, was carrying two 5-year-old wheelchair-bound children, police said. In addition to the boys, two aides and the driver were also onboard. Cops said the bus was heading to the Association for the Help of Retarded Children in Bohemia. All five passengers were transported to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore. The three adults were treated for minor injuries and the children did not appear to be injured, said authorities.
Prosecutors said Anthony had been driving with six suspensions on her driver’s license. An assistant district attorney also said Anthony admitted to speeding immediately before the crash – a claim that her attorney disputed after the court proceeding.
According to court documents, Anthony had “very glassy, bloodshot eyes and mumbled speech” after the crash. She allegedly told a police officer “I’m not drunk. I just smoked a little weed last night,” after failing several parts of a field sobriety test.
Anthony, a mother of two, refused to submit to a blood test after she was processed at the Third Precinct in Bay Shore. Police obtained a warrant and her blood was drawn Wednesday. The results of the blood test were not available during her Thursday arraignment.
Judge G. Ann Spelman referenced “an allegation” regarding Anthony’s alleged refusal to submit to blood analysis. As a result, the judge ordered that her license be suspended pending a hearing.
“It’s my personal belief that the case is not strong,” said George Duncan, Anthony’s Central Islip-based attorney. “Although there’s an accident involved, it’s only an accident. They don’t have blood results.”
Speaking outside the courtroom, Duncan said he questioned the legal sufficiency of the charges. “How can they say she was driving under the influence of drugs if they don’t know what drugs she was under the influence of?”
Said Duncan: “She hasn’t done anything wrong. She was involved in a motor vehicle accident. The fact that it’s a school bus, is what everyone is upset about and I understand that, but that doesn’t mean she’s committed a crime.”
Anthony’s grandmother and an unidentified male relative attended the arraignment. They declined to comment, other than shouting, “get away” to reporters.