LI School Bus Driver Arraigned for Driving While Impaired

James Sommer, 47, pleaded not guilty to the charge in court Tuesday

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    A Long Island bus driver was arraigned Tuesday on charges that he was impaired when he crashed a school bus. Greg Cergol reports. (Published Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012)

    A Long Island school bus driver accused of crashing a bus filled with seventh-graders during a field trip Monday was arraigned Tuesday on the charge of operating a commercial vehicle while impaired.

    James Sommer, 47, pleaded not guilty to the charge in court Tuesday. He is being held on $10,000 bail .

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    Authorities are waiting for blood tests to determine Sommer's extent of impairment.

    Police said Sommer was attempting to park a bus carrying 29 Plainedge Middle School seventh-graders and a teacher when he backed into a tree limb. The group was on a field trip to the DNA Learning Center at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

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    A 12-year-old girl was taken to Huntington Hospital with minor injuries.

    Calls to the school were not answered. 

    On Tuesday, Sommer's lawyer said the bus driver had never been in trouble before and that the pending blood test results would show Sommer to have been under the legal limit at the time of the accident.

    Outside the courtroom, mothers of some of the students involved in the crash held a sign reading: "We must trust our bus! Stop DWI."

    "It's upsetting that someone would put so many lives at risk.," said Jennifer Dorane, whose 12-year-old daughter escaped injury in the accident. "She has a trip on Friday and she's scared to get back on the bus and I don't blame her."

    Sommer is the third Long Island school bus driver to be arrested for driving while intoxicated this month.

    Another school bus driver was arrested Oct. 11 when he crashed an empty school bus near 60 of the Long Island Expressway in Ronkonkoma. Police found an open bottle of vodka on the bus. 

    On Oct. 4, a school bus driver crashed into a home just after leaving a Catholic elementary school with five children on board. He was arrested the next day on several charges. 

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