He was Drinking: Monroe County Bus Driver, Admits Drinking Problem

Note: It appalls me that I received criticism for being “mean” when this man receives nothing but excuses for his behavior. The facts are these: He drank, he drove a school bus filled with children, he drove the school bus off a 120 foot cliff, he lied and said he drank Nyquil, he lied and said he had a medical problem, then he finally admits the truth. Well, words are cheap. Trust me, many people facing criminal charges have the innate ability to sound extremely sorry and remorseful for what they have done. In the following news article, his written apology is quoted. However, it looks to me like one of those apologies that is not really an apology. In other words, “I’m sorry but it wasn’t me – it was the alcohol making my decisions for me.” He should take real responsibility for his actions and come to grips with the fact that he did make a “knowing” choice. He selfishly chose alcohol over the safety of the innocent children who he was entrusted to protect. Both he, the Board of Education and the State of West Virginia better pray that none of these children have been injured – John H. Bryan, Attorney at Law.

From today’s Register-Herald:

Bus driver resigns, admits drinking problem

By Christian Giggenbach
Register-Herald Reporter

Saying “I hit rock bottom,” a veteran Monroe County school bus driver arrested last week on a DUI charge has resigned after admitting to having “a problem with alcohol.”

Clyde Watson Jr., 62, of Union, tendered his resignation to Superintendent Lyn Guy Saturday, and Guy presented it to the school board during a special session Monday evening.

“Mr. Watson, who was involved in the bus accident on Feb. 5, 2008, and was charged with DUI, had written a letter of apology to the board president, the superintendent and the transportation director Feb. 7, two days after the accident,” Guy said Tuesday in a faxed news release.

In the letter, Watson admitted to having an ongoing alcohol problem, according to Guy.

“It has been through the constant support and encouragement of my closest friends, for the first time in years, I’m willing to admit to myself that I have a problem with alcohol,” Watson wrote. “As difficult as that was for me, it is even more difficult to admit to each of you.”

Guy could not be reached for further comment Tuesday. School officials said Guy will be absent for the rest of the week due to an out-of-state conference for superintendents.

Watson, a school bus driver for 14 years, crashed his 33-foot-long bus into a 120-foot ravine with 11 school children aboard Feb. 5. There were no injuries.

“I hit rock bottom Tuesday morning (Feb. 5). I can’t change the fact that I committed a great moral and ethical injustice, and risked the lives of many,” Watson said in his apology letter.

“What I can change is my life and the direction it was headed in before those kids got on my bus … It is with heavy heart that I can tell you that at no time would I have knowingly put my kids at risk. I did, however, let the influence of alcohol unfortunately impair my judgment.

Watson was charged with DUI with minors in a vehicle, according to a criminal complaint filed by State Police Sgt. J.L. Cooper.

At the scene, Watson had a preliminary breath test which indicated a small amount of alcohol was present in his blood, about .022.

Watson told police he had taken Nyquil, which contains alcohol, the night before the accident.

Cooper said Tuesday he will contact the Monroe prosecutor’s office concerning Watson’s alcohol admission and resignation to the school board.

“He has already given us a statement saying he did not drink during the day of the accident,” Cooper said Tuesday. “If Mr. Watson wishes to revise his statement, then I will be glad to speak to him.”

Monroe Prosecutor Rod Mohler could not be reached for comment Tuesday. State Police are awaiting the results of Watson’s blood tests from a hospital visit the day of the accident, Cooper said.

Although a driver is presumed intoxicated by the state when his or her blood alcohol content is .08, police can charge a driver with DUI at lower BAC levels if the consumption of alcohol has impaired his or her ability to drive.

If convicted, Watson faces two days to 12 months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

School board member Bill Shiflet said a disciplinary hearing had originally been scheduled for Monday prior to Watson’s resignation.

A Register-Herald request for a full copy of Watson’s resignation and apology letter was denied by school officials.

School officials also said Watson had an unlisted phone number. It is uncertain if Watson has hired an attorney to represent him in the criminal case.

Shiflet said Watson’s letters did not specifically mention what type or how much alcohol he had consumed prior to taking the wheel of the bus.

When asked what liability Watson’s actions may have caused the county, Shiflet was unsure.

“It’s a very tragic event and we are very thankful that no one was injured,” Shiflet said by phone. “It certainly could have been a lot worse than it was.”

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