A Flagler County School District bus driver is out on bond this afternoon after driving dozens of middle school students home Wednesday, Feb. 9, while under the influence of alcohol.
The same driver had been cited by the Florida Highway Patrol three days before — when he was involved in a school bus crash while driving the same bus route — for not obeying a stop sign.
“This drunk thought it was okay to endanger 40 children and other drivers by driving a loaded school bus significantly impaired,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “Thankfully, no one was hurt as a result of his actions. I commend the employee who reported him to school officials. Anyone whose careless actions endangers lives of children and other drivers deserves to be locked up, which he was.”
After he was being booked into the Sheriff Perry Hall Inmate Detention Facility shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9, tests would reveal that driver Mark McNeil, 60, had a blood alcohol content level of .32 and .31, respectively.
That’s four times the legal limit in the state of Florida. He'd also been cited by a Florida Highway Patrol three days before for Failure to Obey a Stop Sign when he was involved in a school bus crash while driving the same afternoon bus route.
The afternoon of Feb. 9, the Ormond Beach resident arrived to work for his afternoon shift, and a co-worker with direct contact with him could smell alcohol and reported it to supervisors.
Keeping his usual routine, McNeil attempted to pick up his school bus. However, he drove off in a bus not assigned to him and proceeded to his usual pick-up location at Buddy Taylor Middle School to pick up students on his afternoon route.
The 60-year-old driver picked up approximately 40 children from the middle school and began to drop them off at their bus stops.
After attempts by school transportation to contact McNeil by radio were ignored, he used the radio to notify the district he was having a medical emergency.
McNeil’s supervisor eventually found him on his route near the intersection of Karas Trail and Karat Path.
McNeil exited the bus and fell to the ground, complaining he couldn’t breathe. Flagler County Fire Rescue responded and transported him to AdventHealth.
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) was notified, and deputies responded to AdventHealth. Upon deputies arrival to AdventHealth-Palm Coast, McNeil tried to flee.
Deputies caught him on hospital property just moments later. Deputies could smell alcohol coming from McNeil, and he was showing signs of intoxication while resisting arrest.
McNeil was arrested and transported to the Green Roof Inn upon medical clearance.
He was initially arrested for Driving Under the Influence with Passengers Under 18, Resisting Officer without Violence, and one charge of Child Neglect.
The FCSO has since recommended 14 additional charges of Child Neglect after families of 14 students on the bus confirmed that they would like to pursue charges. The investigation is ongoing, and another 11 families could make the same request.