School bus driver charged with driving while intoxicated

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter , Jill Courtney

A school bus driver is charged with driving while intoxicated after being arrested while taking students home Monday afternoon.

Precinct 7 deputy constables said the driver, identified as 39-year-old Nathan Manuel, is also accused of driving the bus with a suspended license.

"This is unacceptable, this very unacceptable," said parent Stacey Hunter. "These are kids."

Manuel was driving students home from the Zoe Learning Academy. Police said they received calls about the driver's behavior from residents of a southeast Houston apartment complex. Those residents said they saw Manuel ram the school bus into a parked car.

"He backed into her car probably about four or five times, just kept hitting her car," said Demetrus Ellis.

Ellis said residents of the complex tried to speak to Manuel when he got off the bus to look at the damage.

"He was stumbling; couldn't talk, nothing," said Ellis.

Ellis said even though residents tried to stop him, Manuel got back on the bus and drove away. Some of the residents called 911. Manuel was eventually pulled over at the intersection of Bellfort and Jutland and given a field sobriety test.

"The driver showed signs of intoxication; couldn't stand up and had real bad speech," said Sgt. Marcus Grant with the Precinct 7 Constable's Office.

Grant said Manuel also had a suspended driver's license.

Fortunately, none of the kids on board the bus were hurt.
The founder of the Zoe Learning Academy, Dr. Richard Rose, said Manuel  is not a school employee.

Rose said the driver works for Reaching Out 2 Youth Transportation Services, which is contracted to bus kids to and from the school. Rose said the school has contracted with the company to provide bus service for the last four years.

"They provide their own background checks, they hire their own people," said Rose. "We trust that the contract that we have with them, that those things are taken care of."

Rose said this was the first time the school has had this type of problem with the company. A check of Texas Department of Transportation records shows the company has 16 buses and its insurance is current.

Calls placed to the transportation company by Local 2 have not yet been returned.

Precinct 7 officials say Manuel is charged with felony while under the influence of a controlled substance. Other charges are pending and to be determined by the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

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