By CARY ASHBY
Reflector Staff Writer
The unlicensed bus driver who was intoxicated when he wrecked while trying to take Columbus-area middle-school children to Cedar Point last month is scheduled to report to the Huron County Jail on Aug. 6.
Ronald L. Williams, 46, of Columbus, has been sentenced to serve a total of 27 days behind bars for child endangering, driving under the influence (DUI) and operating a commercial vehicle without a commercial driver’s license. He pleaded no contest June 7 in Bellevue Municipal Court to the three misdemeanors in exchange for the state dismissing one count of failure to control.
Judge Kenneth Fox found Williams guilty and fined him $150 on both the child endangering and commercial driver’s license charges. A court spokeswoman said Monday the judge suspended five months of a six-month jail term.
In addition, Williams had his regular driver’s license suspended for six months, was fined $550 for the DUI and sentenced to three days in jail. The court spokeswoman said the defendant served three days behind bars while waiting for his initial hearing and will serve his 30-day sentence for the DUI at the same time as the child endangering sentence. She also said the DUI was Williams’ first such conviction.
Williams was released May 24 from jail after posting a $4,000 bond, three days after the May 21 crash on Ohio 4, south of Ohio 547 in Sherman Township. He was driving a 2000 Ford commercial bus carrying 12 Hilliard Heritage Middle School students, all between the ages of 12 and 13, as well as two adult chaperones at the time.
The defendant was driving north when he went off the left side and hit a ditch, said Trooper Shawn Whiley, of the state Highway Patrol. Hitting the ditch caused the bus to face north in the southbound lane when it stopped. Northside Towing towed the vehicle from the scene with heavy damage to the right side doors and undercarriage.
Chaperone Heithem El-Hodiri, who was riding in a bus behind the one that wrecked, earlier told The Columbus Dispatch it’s “hard to believe that (the bus) went into that ditch and came back without tipping over.”
Seven of the 14 passengers were treated at the scene for minor scrapes or bumps. One adult was treated for a back injury at Fisher-Titus Medical Center and released.
Williams, a driver for the Urban Express bus company in Columbus, wasn’t injured. Whiley, the investigating trooper, said Williams’ blood-alcohol content level tested at .103, which is above Ohio’s legal limit of .08.
The children were placed on the other buses being used for the field trip to Cedar Point, so group continued on its way to the Sandusky amusement park.