Case against former bus driver heads to grand jury

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: November 25, 2019 | 12:30 p.m. 

Three South Elementary students injured in March crash

PRINCE GEORGE – The case against a former Prince George County Public Schools bus driver is set to be heard by a local grand jury.

According to court records, a judge has allowed for Prince George Commonwealth’s Attorney Susan Fierro to proceed with presenting their case against Charles City County native Holly Owens during an upcoming seating of the grand jury in connection with a March school bus crash where Owens allegedly failed to stop or report the incident that left several students injured.

Those records further reveal Owens, who was charged with a felony count of failure to report an accident that involves an injury or death and reckless driving, and her case had been continued several times since the March 8 crash along Pumphouse Road before the felony charge was certified to be presented to the grand jury.

Following a hearing last week, that reckless driving charge was amended to improper driving, an infraction, and Owens was found guilty and required to pay $161 in fines and court costs by the end of the year.

The whole case dates back to the morning of March 8 as the bus Owens was driving was traveling along Pumphouse Road when, according to Prince George Police, it “traveled off the left shoulder” of the roadway, “[striking] a mailbox and a culvert pipe before the driver was able to reposition the bus back on the roadway.”

According to school division leaders, the bus was transporting students to South Elementary School just off Route 156 at the time of the crash. Through an investigation by authorities, it was revealed that the bus driver did not follow proper procedure, which requires the immediate reporting of any accidents or crashes. Instead, police said she continued to travel along the route before dropping students off at South Elementary.

“After the students were released at the school, the Police Department was made aware of the incident,” police told The Prince George Journal following the crash.

In an interview, Prince George County Police Chief Keith Early said their investigation found “the school bus was involved in a crash, the school bus driver did not stop at the scene and went on to the school, to which [police] were then notified about the crash, but it was not the bus driver who reported it.” It was later revealed that parents were alerted to the incident by their children on the bus via their cell phones.

According to Prince George County Public Schools, three students who were on the bus were taken to Southside Regional Medical Center by ambulance with minor injuries while five other students saw their parents pick them up from school and taken to the hospital for evaluation.

Within days, Owens was charged with felony failure to stop at the scene of an accident and misdemeanor reckless driving and released on bond.

Then-assistant superintendent Dr. Lisa Pennycuff confirmed proper regulations were not followed by the bus driver in this incident when speaking with The Prince George Journal following the crash.

“They are supposed to report those incidents immediately,” Dr. Pennycuff said after the crash. “The driver is to call and immediately report the incident and stay on the scene. We have members of our transportation department report to the scene. We usually have a police officer there. If needed, we have the bus pulled out, either by our staff and our equipment or if we need to call someone for help, we do that. We generally have another bus report and pick up the children and take them on to school so, that way the driver and the bus don’t leave the scene of the accident.”

She continued, “So, for us, the director of transportation or someone he designates from his office would then accompany the driver for a drug screening, that is part of our normal process.”

The next month, Pennycuff confirmed Owens was no longer employed with the school division. It is unknown if she resigned or was terminated by the school division.

With the case now heading to the grand jury, it will be for them to decide if the Commonwealth has enough evidence to proceed with having the case heard in circuit court, with an indictment being handed down against Owens should jurors find the evidence presented to be sufficient. As of this report, it is unknown when the grand jury will hear the case.

In regards to the most serious charge levied against Owens, felony failure to stop at the scene, if the accident results in injury or death, which school division representatives confirmed three students suffered minor injuries in this crash, those convicted can face a sentence between one to ten years behind bars, a fine up to $2,500, or both.

Owens’ attorney Aubrey Bowels, III was contacted for comment but a response was not provided as of the publishing of this report.

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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