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School bus driver arrested in fatal hit-and-run: Cops

Soccoro Mercado, 50, was struck by the mini-school bus at about 8:30 a.m. Nov. 20 on 85th Avenue and 164th Street, three blocks from her home at 85-36 161st St., said John Buthorn, a police spokesman. Mercado was taken to Mary Immaculate Hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival, Buthorn said.

The bus was returning after leaving children off at the private Highland Elementary School on Peck Avenue.

The next day police arrested Nakaya Stallings, 21, of 175-26 137th Ave. in Springfield Gardens and charged him with leaving the scene of an accident. Police said Stallings did not have a license to drive the bus.

Stallings is a driver for Cooper Transportation Company, a private bus company based in South Jamaica. The company operates a small fleet of yellow minibuses out of a house on 116th Avenue near 165th Street.

No one answered the door of the house Monday morning, and no telephone number for the bus company was listed.

Stallings admitted to police that he was the driver of the bus, said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. The bus was traveling southbound on 164th Street and made a left turn onto 85th Avenue and struck Mercado, who was crossing the street, Brown said.

Witnesses said the body was dragged under the bus, but the driver did not stop and drove away from the accident scene.

Stallings told police he heard a bang and knew he hit something but did not stop, Brown said.

Stallings faces up to four years in prison if convicted, said a spokeswoman for the DA's office. He was still being held at press time.

"I don't think he's going to be able to make bail," said Detective Louis Amen of the Accident Investigation Squad, who made the arrest.

Amen said Stallings did not have the proper license to drive a school bus.

"It's up to the DA to charge him with that," Amen said.

"We became aware of the situation with his license after his apprehension," said Mary de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the DA's office. "We charged him with the most serious offense and we will proceed with additional charges if our investigation warrants it."

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