NEWARK — A Bloomfield resident and former NJ Transit bus driver has been sentenced to 5 years in prison for her actions behind the wheel in 2019 that left a passenger dead, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office announced on Tuesday.

Fayola Howard, 36, had been convicted of reckless vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, and tampering with records. She pleaded guilty on May 6, admitting she caused the death of Kevin Thomas, 55, of Newark.

"While the vehicular homicide statute limits the sentence in these cases, I hope this sentence can bring the family some sense of justice," said Assistant Prosecutor Adam Wells.

On Dec. 31, 2019, Thomas stepped off an NJ Transit bus driven by Howard to give a pocketbook to a woman who had left it on the bus, according to authorities. When Thomas attempted to return to the bus, near the intersection of Sanford Avenue and Mt. Vernon Place in Newark, Howard closed the door on his arm and then pulled away from the bus stop while dragging Thomas, even as he and other passengers yelled for Howard to stop the bus.

When the bus turned right, Thomas came free and fell, and the bus ran him over. Thomas died from his injuries a week later.

Howard, a native of Trinidad was attempting to board a plane in Newark when she was arrested on Feb. 18, 2020. According to authorities, Howard is expected to face deportation proceedings following completion of her prison sentence.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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