By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: July 18, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.
March crash left at least three students injured, school officials said
PRINCE GEORGE – The case against a former Prince George County Public Schools bus driver who allegedly kept driving along their bus route after being involved in an accident that left students injured has been continued until the fall, according to court records.
Holly Owens of Charles City County is scheduled to return to Prince George General District Court on October 23, roughly seven months after the March 8 crash involving a South Elementary School-bound school bus during that day’s morning commute, which resulted in her being charged with felony failure to stop at the scene of an accident and reckless driving and her being no longer being employed by the school division.
A preliminary hearing scheduled for June 26 was continued, according to court documents, and that hearing now being set for October.
According to police at the time of the early March crash, the bus Owens was driving “traveled off the left shoulder of Pumphouse Road.” When it did, authorities said the bus “struck a mailbox and a culvert pipe before the driver was able to reposition the bus back on the roadway.”
Their investigation found, instead of following procedures detailed by the school division which requires immediate reporting of any accidents or crashes, Owens allegedly continued to travel along the route before dropping students off at South Elementary School and, “After the students were released at the school, the Police Department was made aware of the incident.”
School division officials confirmed three students on the bus were taken from the school by ambulance to Southside Regional Medical Center in nearby Petersburg with minor injuries and another five students had their parents come to the school to take them to the hospital for evaluation.
In an interview shortly after the crash with The Prince George Journal, Prince George Police Chief Keith Early said their investigation showed “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.”
Some parents reported it was their children who told them about the crash thanks to cell phones.
One of the big questions in the weekend following the March crash was if the bus driver followed proper procedures after a crash and what exactly that procedure is. Then-assistant superintendent Dr. Lisa Pennycuff said that the bus driver did not follow the school division’s regulations in an interview after the crash.
“They are supposed to report those incidents immediately,” Dr. Pennycuff said in March. “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.”
Several weeks later, Pennycuff confirmed Owens was no longer employed with the school division after she was charged with felony failure to stop at the scene of an accident and reckless driving.
“Mrs. Owens is no longer employed with Prince George County Public Schools,” Pennycuff verified at the time. It is unknown if Owens was terminated from the position or if she voluntarily resigned. During that same interview, Pennycuff also detailed in a general sense the process at which the school division works through situations like this, saying the “school division places the employee on Administrative Leave while an investigation is conducted,” which, at the time of the March 8 crash, Pennycuff said they were in the midst of their internal investigation and the driver, who hadn’t been identified at the time, would “be on administrative leave until the investigation has been completed.”
“Once the investigation is completed, the findings drive the next steps that are taken with personnel,” Pennycuff said.
In regards to the most serious charge levied against Owens following the crash, 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, and the person is convicted of this charge, they could face a sentence between one to ten years behind bars, a fine up to $2,500, or both.