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Richland school bus driver accused of DUI

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

A school-bus driver for Monark Student Transportation has been charged with drunken driving and child endangerment after being accused of transporting Richland children to St. Ursula School in Hampton in June while drunk, police said.

Martin Hehman, 68, of Richland, was stopped on the morning of June 6 traveling north along Route 8 in Hampton after police received a call around 8:14 a.m. about a school bus driving erratically, Hampton police Officer Pete Halli said.

Hehman showed signs of impairment, failed a field sobriety test and was taken into custody, Halli said.

The driver had dropped off 10 students at St. Ursula School at about 8:05 a.m., the officer said. The students reside within the Pine-Richland School District borders.

Hehman submitted to a blood test at UPMC Passavant Hospital in Cranberry, which then was sent to the Allegheny County Crime Lab, Halli said.

Monark officials were contacted on the morning of the arrest, Hehman was suspended after his arrest, and he was fired after the blood-alcohol results came back, Halli said.

Test results showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.138, above the legal limit of 0.08, when they came back on June 17, Halli said, and he then called parents of all the children on the bus.

“I waited for results to come back because we couldn't accuse a guy of something we didn't have evidence of,” Halli said.

Halli said Hehman admitted to having a drink the night before but said he had nothing that morning.

Hehman has been charged drunken driving and 10 counts of endangering the welfare of children. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for July 23, after this edition's deadline, before District Judge Suzanne Renee Blaschak in West Deer.

Monark owner Mark Schmitt did not respond to a message seeking comment. The company provides transportation services for Pine-Richland and is responsible for busing children in the district to private and parochial schools within 10 miles.

In a statement, Pine-Richland officials said, “We are very concerned about a situation involving a driver of one of our parochial school bus runs. “We have reviewed the details thoroughly and have been in frequent contact with Monark Student Transportation. They have taken action. We also have been in contact with the families. The safety and wellbeing of our students is critical.”

Thomas Perko, 30, of Richland, said his daughter, Zoe, 6, was on the bus that morning, and he's disappointed that no one contacted parents sooner about the arrest.

“Everyone knows lab results take time, and I don't know if it's the police department's responsibility to make contact with the parents at that time,” Perko said. “But whether it's Monark or the school district, one of those two entities could have called me to say, ‘Hey here's what happened.'”

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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