Sunday, May 23, 2010

Joyriding teens lead deputies on pursuit -- in a school bus

Even in the cover of darkness, a yellow school bus still has a way of standing out.

Two Monroe County teens are to face a court appearance Monday on charges that they took a school bus for a joyride and eventually led sheriff's deputies on a pursuit before they were apprehended, authorities said.

A school bus driver with Whiteford Agricultural Schools left a school bus parked with the keys inside in the driveway of her home on Sylvania-Petersburg Road -- almost right across the road from the small district's elementary school -- when it was driven off late Thursday night.

The theft was reported to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. While an investigator was at the home interviewing the bus driver and her husband, the suspects apparently drove back past the home, Whiteford Agricultural Superintendent Larry P. Shilling told the Free Press today.

The bus driver "was talking to the detective or whoever and said, `there goes my bus,'" Shilling related. Sheriff's office deputies gave pursuit on two-lane roads in Whiteford Township before eventually arresting the suspects less than 45 minutes after the joyride began.

Derek Watson, 19, of Sylvania, Ohio, identified by authorities as the driver, and Ryan Rieger, 17, of Ottawa Lake, Mich., were both charged with unlawfully driving a vehicle and resisting arrest. They were ordered held by a district magistrate in the Monroe County Jail pending the court appearance on Monday. A jail official said that Watson's bond was set at $7,500 while Rieger's bond was set at $5,000.

"It was an unfortunate incident. The good news is nobody was hurt and we got our bus back," Shilling said, noting the small, rural school district has only nine bus routes.

It appears unlikely the bus driver will face disciplinary action over the incident. Shilling said he plans to meet with the district's school bus drivers this week about the incident. School bus drivers with the district currently take the buses they drive home with them and leave the keys in the buses so that maintenance personnel can come pick them up as needed or so a different driver can transport students to athletic competitions or on field trips.

"Obviously, we're going to change the way we do business," Shilling said.

Shilling said that because of the rural environment where the Whiteford Agricultural school district is located, "crime is basically nonexistent. You get caught up in that 'nothing is going to happen kind of thing.' We're certainly going to have to do something different."

The superintendent said the suspects were "a couple of dumb kids" who apparently didn't think things through when they stole a school bus, "especially around 11:30 at night."

"I'm proud to say they're not Whiteford Agricultural High School graduates," Shilling said.

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