To charge or not to charge
Confusion over whether school bus operator had valid driver’s licence
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.