Daughter of Canton school bus driver involved in accident blasts media; drugs had been reported
Monday, June 7, 2010 - 2:52 pm

CANTON – The daughter of a Canton school bus driver who is accused of driving while impaired by drugs and getting into an accident with a bus loaded with first graders is defending her father against what she calls “slander.”

Meanwhile, Canton Central School District says it has received permission from bus driver Richard F. Stemples to disclose that he underwent and passed required random drug and alcohol tests administered to him in March and May, and that he underwent and passed a mandatory comprehensive physical examination during which he disclosed all of his prescription medications to the examining physician in February.

In a letter to the editor of North Country This Week, Michele Stemples said “My dad doesn’t drink and he doesn’t do drugs.” She says she believes reporting of the incident has been unfair to her father.

State Police charged Canton school bus driver Richard Stemples with driving while ability impaired by drugs following the accident in the Town of Piercefield on Friday, June 4 during a school trip.

One student was released Friday after being taken to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake following the accident Friday morning.

Canton Schools Superintendent William Gregory said the student, who complained of blurred vision, was taken by a teacher “as a precautionary measure for observation.”

Meanwhile Gregory said all the other students, faculty and parents in the bus at the time of the accident returned safely to school.

Gregory reported what he called “a minor bus accident” at about 10 a.m. Friday involving a bus taking Mrs. Morrill’s and Ms. Bergen’s first grade classes to the Wild Center in Tupper Lake.

State police told district officials that a breathalyzer administered to Stemples did not reveal the presence of alcohol and that they are awaiting the results of additional lab testing.

Reports say Stemples said he has been taking prescription drugs and the district is aware of that. The district confirmed that Monday.

Stemples’ driving licenses are suspended pending court action.

He is suspended from duties as a bus driver with the school district.

No other students were reported hurt Friday. Children were returned to school after being checked by medical personnel on site.

In her letter, Stemples said a flat tire might have caused the bus to veer off the highway. An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed that claim to Supt. Gregory. NorthCountryNow.com regrets the error.

A statement by an alleged eyewitness indicates the bus was weaving on the roadway before a tire caught the edge of the road and the bus left the highway.

But the driver’s daughter said she looked at the bus and saw cuts on the tires that indicate to her that they were the cause of the accident.