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Berkeley County school bus driver retires after positive intoxication test

March 24, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
  • Sam Lee Newton
Submitted photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A man who police said was driving a Berkeley County school bus when the bus struck a car last month retired after intoxication tests showed he had been drinking alcohol, according to court documents and school officials.

Sam Lee Newton, 61, of 65 Quartz Drive in Martinsburg, was arraigned Saturday by Berkeley County Magistrate Betty Jo Hersh on one misdemeanor count of operating a commercial motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration of .04 or greater, according to court documents.

The concentration of alcohol in Newton’s blood was .072, according to court documents.

Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny P. Arvon said Saturday that the school district was going to terminate Newton after the Feb. 12 incident, but Newton retired the next day instead.

Newton’s retirement from his bus driver position was among the personnel actions taken March 4 by the Berkeley County Board of Education, according to county school district records.

In a complaint filed in magistrate court, West Virginia State Police Trooper W.M. Roden said he was investigating a two-vehicle crash on Harlan Springs Road at the entrance to the Berkeley County Schools bus garage when he saw school bus No. 83 travel through the middle of the accident scene and strike one of the disabled vehicles at 2:26 p.m.

“The bus then continued to the entrance of the entrance of the bus garage without stopping to notify anyone an accident had occurred,” Roden said in his complaint.

Roden followed the bus, found it unoccupied at the bus garage entrance and spotted “a medium size dent and paint transfer” near the rear driver’s-side corner of the bus while looking for evidence of damage, according to court documents.

While Roden was examining the bus, Newton came out of the garage and said he had been driving the bus, but didn’t realize he struck one of the cars in the crash that the trooper was investigating, according to court documents.

Roden said Newton told him he had been “waved through” the accident scene by a police officer who was performing traffic control, according to court documents.

Roden said he explained to Newton that the supposed police officer actually was a volunteer firefighter who was carrying a handheld radio on his side and not an officer with a firearm as Newton had indicated, according to court documents

Roden said he checked Newton’s commercial driver’s license, cited Newton for failure to maintain control and contacted Berkeley County Schools about the incident, according to court documents.

A test conducted at 3:54 p.m. through the school district’s post-accident review procedure revealed that Newton’s blood-alcohol level was .072, according to court documents. A previous “sample test” conducted minutes earlier indicated his alcohol concentration was .075, according to court documents.

Roden said in his complaint that the machine used to conduct the tests was recertified in December 2012 and those who conducted the tests were trained and certified, according to court documents.

The two-vehicle crash involved a Honda Civic and a Ford Focus, according to court documents. The Focus was struck in the rear by the school bus while the car was disabled in the middle of the intersection of the bus garage driveway and Harlan Springs Road, according to court documents.

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