In an interview Saturday, Amal Hanna said she had inadvertently grabbed what...

In an interview Saturday, Amal Hanna said she had inadvertently grabbed what turned out to be an alcoholic beverage earlier in the day from the fridge she shares with a roommate in Hauppauge. Credit: Elizabeth Sagarin

Investigators believe that the Smithtown school bus driver seen Wednesday drinking a White Claw alcoholic seltzer while transporting students home hadn't realized the beverage had any alcohol, according to a Suffolk County police spokesperson, who said the driver would not face criminal charges.

The spokesperson said the driver, who identified herself to Newsday as Amal Hanna and has been fired, thought the drink was simply an ordinary, fruit-flavored seltzer.

Hanna, who worked for Towne Bus Corp., according to a copy of the termination paperwork she shared with Newsday, was bringing students home Wednesday from Smithtown High School West, the district said. After the incident was reported, a different driver completed the route.

In an interview Saturday, Hanna said she had inadvertently grabbed what turned out to be an alcoholic beverage earlier in the day from the fridge she shares with a roommate in Hauppauge, along with taking snacks and water for the workday. 

Hanna, 60, a bus driver since 2006, said she hasn't been able to stop crying. She said she undergoes chemotherapy for her cancer and doesn't drink alcohol. She needs to stay hydrated due to her treatment.

Hanna, who is originally from Egypt, said her cancer treatments leave her unable to taste alcohol. She said she hadn't even known that White Claw, an alcoholic seltzer water beverage that comes in a dozen flavors, is between 5% and 8% alcohol until the incident.

"It was a mistake," she said, noting that alcohol is noted only in small print.

She wept Saturday afternoon as she described what she's lost after being fired.

The kids, she said, are a bright spot in her life.

"I go in the morning, so happy, see the kids, say 'Good morning, how are you?' Give them a big smile ... makes my life happy when I see the kids going to school happy."

She said she is devastated and isn't sure how she'll support herself. 

Neither the bus company nor the district could be reached for comment about the driver's explanation.

In an earlier message to parents, schools Superintendent Mark Secaur said the driver had immediately been removed from her route Wednesday. "It was confirmed that an alcoholic beverage was on board, and the driver was promptly taken from the bus, and a different driver completed the route,” Secaur said.

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