Police: Drunk driver hits school bus filled with high school band

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Reported by: Price McKeon
Updated: 11/17/2013 8:31 am Published: 11/16/2013 11:30 pm

A suspected drunk driver is out on bond Saturday night after Cleveland police said he crashed into a school bus full of Cleveland High School band students. 

Police told FOX23 it was a miracle there were no serious injuries.

Police arrested Joseph Chapman for driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license and failure to remain at the scene of accident early Saturday morning.

FOX23 learned it was not the first time Joseph Chapman has been in trouble with alcohol and driving.

According to online court documents, in 2010 he was charged with DUI and spent time behind bars.

A twisted guardrail marked the spot where Saturday’s accident happened near Highway 64 and Cedar Creek Bridge in Cleveland.

Kristin Kern, a student on the bus said, “I had to be the first one off the bus because I started to freak out.”

The Cleveland Police Department gave FOX23 a picture that showed the bus dangling off the road.

Kern, a 16-year-old clarinet player, said, “I don’t know. It was just really crazy.”

We found the school bus parked in a lot with a missing tire and debris still dangling from the doors.

Kern’s mother Samantha Sanders showed FOX23’s Price McKeon the text message she got from her daughter saying the band was almost back at 12:55 Saturday morning.

Sanders said, “An hour went by and I hadn’t heard from her again.”

She showed McKeon the text message and said she thought, “What’s going on? It’s getting kind of late.”

“Your heart hits the floor,” Sanders said.

Police said 28 band students and two school staff were on the way back from their high school football playoff game when driver Joseph Chapman crossed the center line, driving into the school bus’s path on Highway 64.

Cleveland Police department’s Capt. Todd Fenton said, “The bus driver said he did swerve to try to avoid the collision.”

Sanders said, “If it wasn’t for him (the bus driver) like they (police) said, it could have been much worse.”

Kern said “He (the bus driver) went off the back of the bus.”

The bus full of students was left teetering in the air. Kern told McKeon the bus driver, Mr. Johnson, came back around to the front door and helped the students get off the front of the bus.

Kern described getting off the bus, saying, “I was walking up the hill and the police was right there and they helped me out.”

“I’ve never really been to a scene quite like that. To see all the children and the staff were safe was a blessing to us (police),” said Fenton.

Police said the guardrail saved the lives of everyone on board and no one was seriously injured.

Fenton said, “All I can say is the grace of God.”

Kern was the only student taken to the hospital. Police said some parents took their children on their own to be checked out as a precaution. 

Police said Chapman left the scene but they were able to find him about 20 minutes later. Chapman is out on bond from the Pawnee County Jail Saturday night.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

karlschneider - 11/17/2013 5:58 PM
0 Votes
And the school band was high. Fun all the way around.

gettingby - 11/17/2013 7:23 AM
0 Votes
After what he did including leaving the scene of an accident, and not exactly a virgin to driving under the influence-----why is it proper to bond him back out of jail. There are just some things that deserve punishment beginning with staying in jail. The parents and school district owe their driver a great deal, he gave them something to be thankful for. Now let's get drunk drivers off the road permanently.
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