PALM COAST, Fla. - Flagler County sheriff's deputies arrested a man accused of driving middle school students while intoxicated. FOX 35 News talked exclusively to a parent who had a child on board.
"He could’ve crashed and killed all of our kids," said Sherri Hennessey.
Mark McNeil, 60, is accused of driving 40 kids while under the influence of alcohol Wednesday afternoon. Hennessey’s 14-year-old daughter was one of those students picked up from Buddy Taylor Middle School.
"She said that she was really scared. She didn’t know what was happening. He had been yelling at them," said Hennessey.
Sherri’s daughter says McNeil made the first couple of stops but then started driving around the same neighborhood and skipping the rest of the stops.
The arrest report states that Flagler County bus transportation staff noticed the smell of alcohol on McNeil’s breath, but before they could stop him, he’d taken a bus.
"The district apparently tried calling him on the radio telling him to pull over in a safe place and stop which he refused to do," said Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staley.
Sheriff Staley says a school official was able to catch up to McNeil and get him to stop the bus. McNeil got off and fell to the ground complaining his legs hurt and that he couldn’t breathe. He was rushed to the hospital.
"When he got there and they got him out of the ambulance he took off running so obviously his legs and breathing were now repaired," said Staley.
Deputies say McNeil’s breath smelled strongly of alcohol, his eyes were red and glossy, and he became belligerent. Later deputies say McNeil blew a 0.32 on a breathalyzer which is four times the legal limit.
McNeil was charged with a DUI, resisting arrest, and one count of felony child endangerment, although more charges are pending.
"If we can identify all 39, if the parents are cooperative, and the kids are cooperative, we will charge him with 39 more counts because he deserves every bit of that," said Staley.
Flagler County schools are doing an internal investigation to find out why no one called deputies sooner. Sheriff Staley says they weren’t called until McNeil complained he couldn’t breathe. If they had known about this earlier, Staley believes they could have stopped the man before he ever picked up the kids.
McNeil is out on bond.