Former county bus driver to return to court in reckless driving case

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: October 14, 2019 | 12:30 p.m. 

Owens allegedly ran off road, hit mailbox, failed to report crash

PRINCE GEORGE – A former Prince George County Public Schools bus driver is set to return to court this month in connection with a crash where she allegedly failed to stop and properly report that left several students injured during the previous school year.

According to court records, Holly Owens of Charles City County is scheduled to appear in Prince George General District Court on October 23, facing felony failure to report an accident involving injury or death and misdemeanor reckless driving following a March 8 crash involving the South Elementary School-bound bus she was driving during the morning commute.

At the time of the crash, police said the bus Owens was piloting “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.”

Through their investigation, it was revealed that Owens did not follow protocol detailed by the school division, which requires the immediate reporting of any accidents and 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.”

In the hours after the crash, Prince George County Police Chief Keith Early explained in an interview with The Prince George Journal further detailed 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 said it was their children on the bus who told them about the crash thanks to their cell phones.

Prince George County Public Schools’ central office confirmed three students on the bus were taken from the school by ambulance to Southside Regional Medical Center in neighboring Petersburg with minor injuries and an additional five students had their parents come to South Elementary and take them to the hospital for evaluation.

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

Given that the crash involved school system personnel, at the time, then-Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lisa Pennycuff was unable to speak in great detail about the incident but she did confirm that proper regulations were not followed by the bus driver.

“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.”

In addition, the now-superintendent gave an overview of their procedure in these situations, saying an employee is placed on administrative leave while an investigation by the school division is conducted and, “Once the investigation is completed, the findings drive the next steps that are taken with personnel.”

The following month in April, Pennycuff confirmed Owens was no longer employed by the school division, but it is unknown if she resigned or was terminated by Prince George Public Schools.

As the court date approaches, it is unknown if a judge will give the Commonwealth Attorney’s office the go-ahead to present the case to a future seating of the grand jury, which, if the grand jury finds the Commonwealth’s evidence to be sufficient, would see the case moved to the county’s circuit court. So far, the last two hearings in the case have been continued, including a June preliminary hearing.

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.

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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