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UPDATE: Cherokee County bus driver charged with DWI with kids on board

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CHEROKEE COUNTY, NC (WRCB) -

UPDATE: A Cherokee County, North Carolina school bus driver is accused of driving while impaired with kids on board.

The school system fired 63-year-old Harold Herbst on Monday.

School officials said Herbst crashed into a ditch near Glen Stalcup Road and Martin's Creek Road.

That's only a few miles away from where he was supposed to drop off 7 children at Martin's Creek Elementary.

"My son said that he could tell something was wrong that he could tell he was drunk or on something," Megan Nichols, a parent said.

Megan Nichols relies heavily on the school bus for her 11-year-old son.

Her child has been riding the bus with the same driver for the last two years and hasn't had any issues until Monday. 

"You get a little furious because you are putting your children's lives in the hands of the bus drivers every morning," Nichols said.

State troopers said Herbst was backing up the bus with children on board when he landed in a ditch. He radioed school officials for help.

They felt something didn't seem right, so they contacted state troopers.

"Well, that's really our worst nightmare that the thought that our students would ever be in harm's way," Jeana Conley, Cherokee County Schools Superintendent said.

Superintendent Jeana Conley said it's standard procedure for authorities to be called when a bus is involved in any sort of accident.

Another driver got the kids safely to Martin's Creek Elementary School.

When state troopers performed several field sobriety tests on Herbst, they say he didn't do well and was arrested. They noticed he had glassy eyes and slow reaction times.

"There's a very deep zero tolerance for any situation like that," Conley said.

Herbst had been a part time driver for the school system since August of 2014. He had never been a problem, but is now facing charges.

Parents like Nichols are just grateful no one was hurt.

"That's a lot of children that he had in his hands that it could have turned out a completely different way," Nichols said.

A court clerk confirmed the bus driver bonded out of jail on Monday.

Channel 3 contacted Herbst to get his side of the story, but he did not want to comment.

Superintendent Conley said the school's principal will be taking over Herbst's bus route until they find a replacement.

She said they're constantly reviewing procedures and mentioned drivers have to take random drug tests along with regular health assessments. 

Herbst is expected to be in court on November 21.


UPDATE: A Cherokee County, NC school bus driver have been charged with driving under the influence, with school children aboard the bus.

Harold Herbst, 63, was charged with driving while impaired while operating a school bus. Herbst was suspended as the investigation continues. 

Police say that five students were on the bus as Herbst was driving while drunk, getting the bus stuck on an embankment at an intersection as he transported students to Martin Creek Elementary School.

Herbst contacted school officials who took him back to the school and were suspicious about a possible impairment, and contacted the North Carolina Highway Patrol.

Herbst then failed a roadside sobriety test administered by North Carolina state troopers.

School officials are reviewing the incident and may institute new policies and possible drug testing to prevent future occurrences.

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