Saturday, May 29, 2010

Probe into bus crash ongoing

KULPMONT - Police Chief Richard Wilson III said the identity of the female bus driver involved in a hit-and-run accident last week in the borough, who may have been driving under the influence of a controlled substance, most likely won't be released until the investigation is complete.

Meanwhile, the school district said it and the bus company subject bus drivers to random drug testing, but hadn't had any previous issues with the driver in this case.

Questioned Monday afternoon why the driver's name hasn't yet been made public, Wilson said, "Because she hasn't been charged and I don't want to compromise the investigation."

The police chief said he realizes the majority of drivers involved in hit-and-run accidents who are caught are identified, but said Wednesday afternoon's accident was more complicated than a routine hit and run.

He said police were dispatched at 4:07 p.m. Wednesday to investigate a report that a Mount Carmel Area School District bus was seen swerving along Route 61 north. A second caller told 911 operators the bus struck a road sign, knocking off a mirror, which Wilson later found lying in the 1100 block of Chestnut Street (Route 61) in Kulpmont.

No students were in the bus when the accident occurred.

Wilson reiterated Monday that driving under the influence of a controlled substance charge is pending laboratory results on blood samples taken Wednesday at Shamokin Area Community Hospital. The samples will be analyzed at NMS Labs in Willow Grove.

He explained that if he filed a summary offense against the driver in connection with the accident, he couldn't come back and file additional charges because that would constitute "double jeopardy."

"We plan on filing everything at one time," Wilson said.

Grateful, but appalled

Mount Carmel Area Superintendent Cheryl Latorre said she was grateful no students were in the bus at the time of the accident, but found it appalling that someone would possibly drive school children around while being impaired by drugs.

Latorre pointed out that no drugs or alcohol were found on the bus.

She said the driver, who is employed by Marvin E. Klinger Inc., the bus company in Dornsife that services the district, has been suspended from driving buses for Mount Carmel Area.

Latorre said the district never had a problem with the bus driver in the past.

She said the district and the bus company subject drivers to random drug testing. She said the district must approve a list of drivers each year from Marvin E. Klinger Inc.

Latorre said a few parents have contacted her about concerns with the incident. She said district administrators try their best to have the most qualified drivers transport the district's students to make sure they are safe.

Should the driver be cleared by the bus company to return to her position, Latorre said district officials would have to consider the nature of the offenses she is charged with before making a decision about reinstating her to Mount Carmel Area's bus driver list.

Latorre, who has communicated with officials from the bus company since the incident, said police informed her that the accident remains under investigation.

The superintendent said she is prohibited by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) from identifying the bus driver or releasing any other personal information about her.

An official at family-owned Marvin E. Klinger Inc., who had several questions posed to him about the accident Monday, said his family needed time to review the questions before offering a response.

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