20 04 2008

Disabled Man Left In Taxi; Driver Arrested

April 18, 2008

News4 – Jacksonville

http://www.news4jax.com/news/15926571/detail.html

Jacksonville, Fla. — A taxi driver was recently arrested and accused of leaving a man with a severe disability by himself for hours in the back of a taxi van.

Gary Harris, 28, has cerebral palsy. He is wheelchair bound and unable to speak, which is why his mother was shocked when she learned the man left was by himself in a Gator City van for four hours before anyone noticed.

“He can’t talk so by me taking care of him all of his live, I can tell when he’s uncomfortable with anything — how he feels or if he’s sick. I can tell he’s just not himself. He’s just whining more, and it’s a different type of whine,” said Harris’ mother, Lisa Snow. “I can imagine what he was going through.”

Snow said she cringes when she thinks about what could have happened to her son after police said he was left alone in a parked van.

The driver of the van, 51-year-old Pamela Fazzio, told police she forgot the man was in the vehicle. She said it was an honest mistake, but police said it was a case of negligence and took her into custody.

Police said Harris was stuck inside a parked special-needs van from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday.

Harris was supposed to be taken to a day program. Instead, he was taken to an area hospital, and Fazzio was taken to jail.

“Unfortunately, this time the driver was — the system failed,” said Mark Hayden, of the Jacksonville Transportation Group that runs the van service.

Hayden told Channel 4 Fazzio has been fired. He also said his drivers go through dozens of hours of training on how to handle their hundreds of special needs clients.

“It’s just unacceptable what happened. The driver did not follow the proper procedures. We have a very thorough training program. It’s almost 80 hours of training that all these drivers go through,” Hayden said.

He said the company would review all its policies to make sure no similar incidents happen in the future.

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