To charge or not to charge

Con­fu­sion over whether school bus op­er­a­tor had valid driver’s li­cence

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERRY ROBERTS

Af­ter a bizarre se­ries of events, it turns out a school bus driver who was at the wheel dur­ing an ac­ci­dent in Old Per­li­can on March 29 will face pros­e­cu­tion on a charge that he did not have a valid driver’s li­cence at the time of the in­ci­dent.

And of­fi­cials with East­ern School District are con­tin­u­ing a re­view into the in­ci­dent, and have not ruled out sanc­tions for what it de­scribed as a “ breach of the bus­ing con­tract.”

In­ves­ti­ga­tors with Trin­ity Con­cep­tion District RCMP is­sued a sum­mary of­fence ticket to 51-year-old Ran­dolph Coish of Bay de Verde on April 4 af­ter it was dis­cov­ered his li­cence had ex­pired and was “pend­ing re­in­state­ment.”

But when of­fi­cers again checked on the sta­tus of his li­cence on April 8, records with the prov­ince’s mo­tor ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion divi­sion showed the li­cence was valid.

Scott Coish, Ran­dolph Coish’s brother and owner of the bus, said he was con­tacted by po­lice and in­formed the charge had been dropped, but that a sec­ond charge of mov­ing a ve­hi­cle when un­safe to do so would pro­ceed.

The in­ci­dent had drawn prov­ince-wide me­dia at­ten­tion, with some par­ents of the 33 ju­nior high stu­dents who were on the bus ex­press­ing anger at the way the in­ci­dent was han­dled. Sev­eral stu­dents also com­plained that they had suf­fered in­juries in the ac­ci­dent, and had been un­able to at­tend school for over a week.

Scott Coish con­tacted The Com­pass on Tues­day, April 12 and stated that “I knew all along he had a li­cence,” and that his com­pany’s rep­u­ta­tion had been un­fairly dam­aged.

But this story took an­other twist on Wed­nes­day, April 13 when po­lice is­sued the fol­low­ing state­ment:

“ The RCMP acted on (mo­tor reg­is­tra­tion) data avail­able to us at the time of the of­fense. It is our ex­pe­ri­ence that this data is ac­cu­rate and re­li­able. We in­ves­ti­gated the pos­si­bil­ity that in this one case the data may have been not up­dated and found that the (mo­tor reg­is­tra­tion) in­for­ma­tion we had ini­tially was ac­cu­rate.

“ We will be pro­ceed­ing with orig­i­nal course of ac­tion of prose­cut­ing the driver of the school bus. As this mat­ter is now be­fore the courts we will be mak­ing no fur­ther com­ment(s) on this mat­ter.”

A spokesman for mo­tor reg­is­tra­tion con­firmed that Ran­dolph Coish ap­plied for re­in­state­ment of his li­cence “a num­ber of days” af­ter the ac­ci­dent, and now has a valid li­cence.

“ There was some con­fu­sion that there was a glitch in our sys­tem. That is in­ac­cu­rate,” the spokesman stated.

Ran­dolph Coish has been at sea in re­cent days and could not be reached for com­ment.

Scott Coish, when reached April 13, was adamant that his brother had a valid li­cence and clean driv­ing record at the time of the ac­ci­dent.

He said the li­cence was is­sued in April 2009 and does not ex­pire un­til May 2014.

“I’m not sure what’s go­ing on,” said Scott Coish.

A po­lice of­fi­cial said Ran­dolph Coish has un­til May 25 to ei­ther pay the fines, or have a date set for trial.

Mi­nor dam­age to bus

The ac­ci­dent oc­curred at an in­ter­sec­tion in Old Per­li­can as the bus was trans­port­ing stu­dents home from Bac­calieu Col­le­giate.

The bus col­lided with a car as the bus pulled into the in­ter­sec­tion. De­spite re­ports to the con­trary, Scott Coish said the driver came to a full stop, but said the ac­ci­dent oc­curred as the bus “edged out” into the in­ter­sec­tion.

Po­lice de­scribed the ac­ci­dent as “mi­nor,” though the car sus­tained sig­nif­i­cant dam­age. The bus had dam­age to the bumper and cross­ing arm.

A 12-year-old girl suf­fered a frac­tured skull and other in­juries, while a 13-year-old male stu­dent com­plained of pain in his back and neck.

An of­fi­cial with the East­ern School District stated April 13 that the stu­dents have been “eas­ing back” to school.

Some par­ents have com­plained that the driver de­cided to fin­ish his route shortly af­ter the ac­ci­dent, with­out no­ti­fy­ing emer­gency per­son­nel, but Scott Coish said the de­ci­sion was only made af­ter the driver con­firmed there were no in­juries.

He said many stu­dents com­pared the col­li­sion to the im­pact of hit­ting a pot­hole.

“Some of them didn’t even know what hap­pened,” Scott Coish said.

Breach of con­tract

The East­ern School District is con­duct­ing its own re­view of the ac­ci­dent, and has stated the com­pany breached its con­tract by not pro­vid­ing re­quired doc­u­men­ta­tion for the driver. These doc­u­ments in­clude a Class 2 li­cence, crim­i­nal records check and a driver’s ab­stract.

Scott Coish has ac­knowl­edged that his brother is a ca­sual driver.

A spokesper­son said the board was “sur­prised and shocked” to learn the driver did not have a valid li­cence.

This school bus sus­tained mi­nor dam­age fol­low­ing a col­li­sion with a car in Old Per­li­can on March 29.

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