A school bus driver in Gillette is facing nine misdemeanor reckless endangering charges for speeding over a bump in an intersection, causing minor injuries to some students on board.
Charessa Joseph, 25, voiced remorse over the incident and concern for the students in a Thursday interview with Cowboy State Daily.
“I should have been paying attention more and to be honest, I should have been the adult in the situation,” said Joseph. “I’m just glad none of the kids were seriously injured.”
She and the students, who were preteens and teens, had been going over bumps for fun on the way home from school Nov. 1, the day before the incident for which she’s now charged in Gillette Circuit Court.
‘I Was Just Having Fun With The Kids’
Joseph reportedly told the kids to get in the very back of the bus to feel the greatest effect.
That also was the first day Joseph was given a propane-powered bus to drive instead of a diesel-powered one, she said, adding that unlike the worn-in diesel bus, the propane bus would lurch at the slightest touch.
“I was just having fun with the kids and it didn’t really go well,” she said, noting that she was a “sub” driver and didn’t have a permanent route of her own yet.
On Nov. 2, Joseph and the students plotted again to go over some good bumps. A court document says she looped around to a rugged intersection. Joseph said the speed limit there is 25 mph, and she sped through at between 28-29 mph.
Joseph said she lives in the same neighborhood as that intersection, but she lives in a different part so that she doesn’t use that route herself.
“I didn’t see this dip in the road went down like a curb,” said Joseph. “It was very sudden.”
The Luggage Rack
In an evidentiary affidavit filed Tuesday in Gillette Circuit, Gillette Police Department Sgt. Derek Weinhardt said he heard from a Campbell County School District administrator the evening of Nov. 2. The administrator reported the incident.
Weinhardt and Officer Brady Nasset reviewed video footage from the bus.
Nasset also interviewed Joseph.
The footage captured the students urging Joseph to go faster over the bumps after school that day. It also showed Joseph accelerating toward the intersection.
Four students bounced out of their seats and hit the luggage rack above them when they went over the bump, the affidavit relates.
One girl bit her lip and twisted her ankle. Another girl bit her lip and went to the hospital for stitches. Others had bumps on their heads.
Joseph pulled over to help the students and got paper towels for the bleeding lips.
She told the students if they were still hurting once at home, they should discuss the incident with their parents, the affidavit says.
In her police interview, Joseph called the maneuver “stupid” and said she never meant to hurt anyone, says the document.
There were nine students on the bus. Joseph is charged with one count of reckless endangering for each student. The charge is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum penalty of one year in jail.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.