BV bus driver charged with DWI in crash

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 ~ Updated 9:42 AM

BERRYVILLE -- Warren Rainwater, 55, of Berryville, the driver of the Berryville School bus that overturned Oct. 1 with 11 passengers aboard, has been charged with DWI (drugs), driving left of center and careless or prohibited driving.

He fell asleep, investigators say, while transporting nine students and two adults to a Future Business Leaders of America competition at Ozarka College in Melbourne.

The accident occurred at 7:05 a.m. along U.S. Hwy. 62 west of Pyatt.

An investigation of the crash by Arkansas State Trooper Matthew Sheley determined the accident occurred as Rainwater was exiting a slight curve in the westbound lane of traffic. The bus crossed the centerline into the eastbound lanes and continued 198 feet off the roadway down an embankment, coming to rest on its side.

Witness statements say Rainwater nodded his head repeatedly, the bus swerved, and students were becoming concerned when "the bus drifted completely to the other side of the road and began rolling over the side.

"Three times," one student wrote, "the bus rolled and then crashed into a tree. Many screams came from the back and that is when help arrived.

"We were on our way to Melbourne for a FBLA conference and didn't expect to be found with a drowsy driver."

Approximately 20 minutes before the accident, a bus dispatcher at the school reported receiving a radio call from Rainwater who said he felt like the bus was sliding around, like on ice.

The dispatcher said he advised Rainwater to slow down and be careful, saying it could be dew coming off the bus and getting under the tires.

A witness who was following the bus in an automobile said she observed the bus swerving across the center line, almost hitting oncoming traffic. "Third time," she wrote, "it was as if the driver had passed out or fallen asleep as the bus continued across the road, then down an embankment."

Rainwater and all 11 passengers were transported from the scene and treated at area hospitals.

All of the students were able to exit the bus on their own and escape serious injury, most coming away with only minor cuts and bruises. One suffered a fractured jaw. Others attended the Friday night football game that evening.

The adults, all seated near the front of the bus, were removed by medical personnel. The most seriously injured was business teacher and FBLA sponsor LeAnn Johnson, who underwent surgery at a Springfield, Mo. hospital. It was reported that her injuries were serious but not life-threatening.

The other teacher and sponsor, Diane Brown, was treated for a broken collarbone.

Rainwater was treated for a concussion and a small cut on his head.

According to reports, results of the lab tests that were taken when Rainwater was hospitalized are not yet available. He reportedly resigned from his post as bus driver after the accident.

State police say the investigative file associated with the crash remains in an active status and no further statements relating to the case will take place until it is adjudicated.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: