ERWIN, Tenn. (WJHL) – A Unicoi County bus driver was arrested Friday after police say his driving led three children to seek care at local and regional hospitals.
According to a press release from the Erwin Police Department (EPD), officers received a report on Thursday in regards to a child being dropped off of a bus in “a location unknown to them.”
When the children were found and returned to their parents, the release says they told them that the bus they had ridden was driven in a way that threw four passengers from their seats.
EPD officers investigating the incident say three of the juvenile passengers were taken to hospitals for treatment, specifying that two were taken by parents, and that one of them was transported to a local hospital before being transferred to a regional children’s hospital. According to an officer narrative provided to News Channel 11, one of those students was found to have spinal fractures caused by the incident.
“3 students were taken to the hospital, examined, treated for injuries and released. We are not completely clear on the severity of the injuries for all 3 at this point,” said Unicoi County Director of Schools John English. “We understand that one student went to her softball game and then went to the hospital afterward and was back to softball Friday so hopefully doing ok.”
In that same document, other children on the bus told officers that the driver, James Sage, had been driving too fast when he hit a speed bump on Okolona Drive. Officers were also told that at times, Sage would allegedly drive the bus in an erratic way to make students on the bus “laugh and bounce around some.”
After the speedbump incident, one of the passengers said they asked Sage to get off the bus near Rock Creek School due to their injuries. Sage reportedly told the juvenile that they couldn’t before dropping them off at another stop that wasn’t their own.
A warrant was obtained for Sage’s arrest, and officers say he was taken into custody Friday and charged with three counts of Aggravated Assault for the injured students, two counts of child neglect for students dropped at incorrect locations and 14 counts of Reckless Endangerment for all passengers on board. Sage’s bond has been set at $75,000.
English told News Channel 11 that the system continues to look into internal policies and that Sage was a relatively new driver with the system who began in Fall of 2021.
English also said Sage remains suspended pending the outcome of his charges, and that the system would take student safety into consideration first afterward.
“We had initially suspended Mr. Sage pending the investigation and that suspension will now continue indefinitely through the conclusion of the outcome of his charges and the court process,” English added.