By David Brand
Nearly a month after a 7-year-old boy was crushed and killed by a van transporting students in Far Rockaway, it remains unclear to what extent the state and city oversees the network of private vehicles that shuttle children to and from school in many New York City neighborhoods.
Second-grader Camron “Neno” Brown was killed while walking next to a school bus in order to transfer to a van that would take him to his aunt’s home after school on April 17. The 22-year-old driver of the van accelerated forward and crushed Camron against the bus, according to the NYPD. The driver remained on the scene and was not arrested.
The school bus and van — commonly known as a “church van” — were both operated by the company Elmer and Jennifer Transportation, which has not responded to multiple phone calls and emails from the Eagle.
A New York State Department of Transportation spokesperson said an investigation into the crash continues, but did not respond to a question about who was conducting the investigation.
“Any vehicle providing school transportation of children is required to have a valid NYSDOT Bus Inspection,” the spokesperson for the DOT said. “The tragic incident in Rockaway, N.Y. is part of an ongoing investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
Kathy Cabreja of Logan Bus Company, which contracts with the Department of Education to transport students, said private bus companies are common in Far Rockaway, and that drivers must get fingerprinted and certified with the Department of Motor Vehicles Bus Driver Unit as part of a law known as Article 19-A.
“They shouldn’t be on the road if they’re not,” Cabreja said.
Logan Bus Company contracts with the DOE to transport students who qualify for bus service. Cabreja said she works with drivers to complete their 19-A applications and receive DOE approval.
An official from the DMV’s Bus Driver Unit directed question to the agency’s communications team. A DMV spokesperson spoke with the Eagle and said the agency would find out more information about the fatal collision before providing a response. This story will be updated to include the DMV’s response.
The New York City Department of Education told the Eagle last week that it does not contract with Elmer and Jennifer Transportation, though the company advertises itself as a “Approved NYC Vendor” of the DOE and uses the DOE logo on its website.
On May 6, the DOE told the Eagle it would ask the company to remove the logo of the city agency from its website.
“This is not a DOE-contracted vendor. We’ll ask Elmer to remove the DOE logo from its website,” a spokesperson for the DOE said.
Seven days later, the DOE logo remains on the company’s main page.
Camron’s family has started a GoFundMe page in his honor.
“This could've been anyone's child and it could have also been several more children killed due to negligence. Camron deserves justice and all children deserves safer transportation,” the family wrote.