Central Florida school bus driver brought 40 kids home while drunk, sheriff says

Orlando Sentinel | By Tiffini Theisen | February 10, 2022

A school bus driver in Flagler County drove about 40 middle-school students home while drunk on Wednesday, the sheriff’s office said.

No injuries were reported.

Tests showed Mark Michael McNeill, 60, of Ormond Beach had a blood alcohol content level of .32 and .31, four times the legal limit in Florida, according to the department.

Driving a bus not assigned to him, he picked up the students from Buddy Taylor Middle School.

While on his route, he ignored attempts by school transportation officials to contact him after a co-worker smelled alcohol on him and reported it to supervisors, authorities said.

McNeill then used the radio to notify the district he was having a medical emergency. After a supervisor finally caught up with him, McNeill got out of the bus “and fell to the ground complaining he couldn’t breathe” and that his legs hurt, the sheriff’s office said.

He was taken to AdventHealth-Palm Coast McNeill, from which he attempted to flee, according to the incident report.

Deputies quickly captured him on hospital property and arrested him on Wednesday afternoon.

“He was showing signs of intoxication while resisting arrest,” the sheriff’s office said. An incident report said he was “belligerent and aggressive” toward deputies.

McNeill was charged with driving under the influence with passengers under 18, resisting arrest and at least one charge of child neglect.

Further charges are pending the completion of the investigation and identification of approximately the 40 students aboard the bus. He could face 39 additional counts of child neglect.

“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.”

By Thursday, McNeill had bonded out of jail.

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