Bus driver accused of DWI appears in court

By Ryan Korsgard - Reporter, Jill Courtney

HOUSTON - A bus driver accused of driving while intoxicated appeared in front of a judge Tuesday morning, one day after police say he left the scene of an accident while driving kids home from school.

The company that hired him says he is now out of a job, and his employer is now trying to figure out what went wrong.

Nathan Manuel, 39, made his first appearance in court on Tuesday. He's accused of driving under the influence with four children on his bus. A prosecutor described the case.

"He took a breathalyzer test, blew 0.00.  A drug recognition expert was called in to evaluate this defendant.  He formed the opinion that this defendant was impaired by a CNS depressant," said the prosecutor.

The judge found probable cause for the charge. An expert believes that a depressant impaired Manuel's driving. On Monday, he was pulled over at Bellfort and Jutland and failed a field sobriety test. He was driving children home from Zoe Learning Academy when witnesses say he repeatedly hit a parked car, kept going and hit several curbs.

Witnesses said he was stumbling and had a hard time walking.

"I couldn't believe it," said Teddrick Hawkins.

Hawkins picked up his 11-year-old son at school. He says his son rides the bus that Manuel drives. Hawkins expects more from the drivers.

"They should do better than that," he said.

A manager from Reaching Out 2 Youth Transportation sServices, the company hired by the school, says Manuel is now off of the job as the company investigates.

Local 2 found Manuel was driving the bus even though police say he has a suspended license and court records show he has a history of drug charges. His bosses at Reaching Out say he would not have been driving the bus had they known his license was suspended.

Since this is a private school, we're told the operators were not required to follow the same guidelines for background checks as a public school system.

Bond was set at $15,000.

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