FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – A bus driver for the Flagler County School District was arrested after he drove middle school students home while under the influence of alcohol, according to a news release Thursday from the county Sheriff’s Office.
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office said the driver, Mark McNeil, 60, was booked into jail shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday and had a blood alcohol content level of .32 and .31, which is four times the legal limit in Florida.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, a co-worker with direct contact to McNeil reported smelling alcohol, which was reported to supervisors. Investigators said McNeil attempted to pick up his school bus but drove off in a bus that was not assigned to him and proceeded along his usual afternoon route at Buddy Taylor Middle School to pick up students.
The Sheriff’s Office said McNeil picked up children from the middle school and began dropping them off at their stops. As written in the Sheriff’s Office’s news release, after attempts by the school to contact McNeil were ignored, he used the radio to notify the district that he was “having a medical emergency.”
Investigators said that McNeil’s supervisor found him on his route and that when McNeil exited the bus, he fell to the ground complaining that he couldn’t breathe. He was transported to a hospital, and the Sheriff’s Office was notified.
When deputies arrived at the Palm Coast hospital, the Sheriff’s Office said, McNeil attempted to flee but was arrested on hospital property.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, McNeil was charged with driving under the influence with passengers under 18, resisting officer without violence and one count of child neglect. The Sheriff’s Office said further charges are pending and that he could face additional counts of child neglect.
“He needs to be charged with everything we can,” said Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly, who added that he’d never seen a case like this “in 45 years of law enforcement.”
No injuries were reported.
On Friday, the Sheriff’s Office reported that families of 14 of the Buddy Taylor Middle School students who were on board the bus expressed wishes to pursue additional charges of child neglect.
Additionally, the Sheriff’s Office said, the Florida Highway Patrol cited McNeil with failure to obey a stop sign when he was involved in a school bus crash along the same afternoon bus route.
A comment from Flagler Schools reads: “We will not comment about the school bus incident because of an ongoing investigation. I can tell you Mr. McNeill is currently on administrative leave, pending the outcome of that investigation.”
He was first hired as a part-time driver in April of 2017. He became a full-time driver in September 2017.