Couple facing charges after overdosing with 4-year-old in car

Photo provided by the East Liverpool Police Department

A man and woman were arrested after overdosing in their car while a 4-year-old boy was in the back seat on Wednesday in Columbiana County.

Police say before the man lost consciousness, he was driving erratically, and he nearly hit a school bus while children were exiting.

The situation could have ended much worse if it weren't for the work of a police officer who wasn't even on duty yet. East Liverpool Patrolman Kevin Thompson was taking his normal route to work when this all unfolded right in front of him.

Pictures from the scene show the horrors of drug abuse, and the devastating impact it has on young lives. In the backseat of the car was a boy in a dinosaur t-shirt -- the picture of innocence. In the front, his mother Rhonda Pasek and driver James Acord are seen passed out.

“I was on my way into work in my personal vehicle and I started following a dark-colored Ford Explorer that was driving, for the most part, erratic,” Thompson said.

“It's one of those things, you're a police officer 24 hours a day, even in your personal vehicle, and when you're traveling to and from work.”

From there, the story took a frightening turn.

As the officer followed the vehicle down a hill, a school bus was dropping off kids at the end of the day.

Thankfully the suspect hit the brakes and skidded to a stop, avoiding any collision with the bus or students.

“Minutes could've meant the difference between how it played out to what could've happened. Somebody could've been killed or seriously injured,” Thompson said.

Thompson approached the vehicle to find Pasek slumped over in the passenger's seat and her son in the back.

He took the keys out of the ignition when Acord tried to drive away.

But it wasn't long before Acord, too, lost consciousness.

Mike Stoffel lives nearby.

He saw the commotion as responders revived the couple with Naloxone and police officers comforted the child.

"Oh yeah, that's really bad,” Stoffel said. “That makes it 10 times worse. You know they're doing it in front of the kid and the kid could've gotten killed.”

“It's sad that this area has a drug problem, the heroin problem, and this is what you're seeing,” Thompson said. “And the children, unfortunately, are one of the biggest victims of that.”

Children's Services was contacted and a neighbor is now caring for the boy.

Acord entered pleas of no contest to OVI and endangering children. He was sentenced to 360 days in jail, ordered to pay a $475 fine, and has a 3-year license suspension.

Pasek entered not guilty pleas to endangering children, public intoxication, and a seatbelt violation. Her bond was set at $150,000.

She is scheduled to appear in East Liverpool Municipal Court for a pretrial at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 15.

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