Pine-Richland bus driver charged with transporting children while intoxicated

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A school bus driver is facing drunken driving and child endangerment charges for transporting 15 children to a Hampton parochial school in June while allegedly under the influence of alcohol.

Hampton police Officer Peter Halli said Martin Hehman, 68, of Richland had a blood alcohol level of 0.138 the morning of June 6.

Police stopped him at 8:14 a.m., minutes after he had dropped off the students, all of whom live in the Pine-Richland School District, at St. Ursula School in Hampton. The legal blood alcohol limit for a school bus driver is 0.02. The state’s legal limit for driving is 0.08.

Officer Halli said he was dispatched to the northbound lanes of Route 8 shortly after 8 a.m. June 6, a day before school ended at St. Ursula, after a passing motorist notified authorities a bus was being driven erratically. No children were in the bus at that time.

Officer Halli said the students had been dropped off at St. Ursula about 8:05 a.m. and Mr. Hehman was on his way back to the bus depot of his employer, Monark Student Transportation, along Route 8 in Richland.

Officer Halli said he followed Mr. Hehman’s bus for a few minutes, observing some erratic movement, before pulling over the vehicle.

Mr. Hehman failed several field sobriety tests, the officer said.

He was taken into custody for suspicion of drunken driving and was transported to a hospital for blood testing. The lab work ultimately showed he had been intoxicated while driving, the officer said.

Officer Hallis said he contacted Monark later that morning, and Mr. Hehman, the regular driver for the route, was taken off the job. The next day was the final day of school.

“It took about two weeks to get the [blood test] results back. Once we knew he was over the legal limit, he was charged and we contacted all the parents,” the officer said.

St. Ursula has students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Mr. Hehman was charged by summons June 19 with one count of drunken driving and 15 counts of endangering the welfare of children.

One parent from Richland posted comments on his Facebook page Tuesday indicating he was upset he hadn’t been notified of the incident sooner. The parent could not be reached for comment.

Officer Halli said he had consulted with his police chief and the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office and all had agreed no contact should be made with parents until the blood test results were back.

“I’m a parent. I understand the concerns. But I would not be happy if I got a call saying my children’s bus driver was DUI then when the blood tests came back, we found out we were wrong and that we had spoken too soon. We wanted to wait until we had the evidence in hand,” the officer said.

Parents were contacted immediately after the blood test results were in hand, beginning June 16, Officer Halli said.

The officer said Mr. Hehman denied drinking any alcohol that day, although he said he had consumed alcohol the night before.

Mark D. Schmitt, owner of Monark, did not return messages left at his office. Mr. Hehman could not be reached for comment.

Pine-Richland School District, which contracts with Monark and is responsible for transporting parochial students who live within its district to their respective schools, issued a written statement:

“We are very concerned about a situation involving a driver of one of our parochial school bus runs. We have reviewed the details thoroughly and have been in frequent contact with Monark Student Transportation. They have taken action. We also have been in contact with the families. The safety and well-being of our students is critical.”

Karen Kane: or at 724-772-9180 First Published July 17, 2014 12:00 AM


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