Police: Bus driver was drunk when he dropped off students

John Dahlheimer (Source: Sharonville Police)
John Dahlheimer (Source: Sharonville Police)

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email|Facebook

SHARONVILLE, OH (FOX19) - A startling story out of Sharonville, as a school bus driver is accused of driving five times over the legal alcohol limit.

61-year-old John Dahlheimer had a prior OVI conviction from 1992 in Hamilton County. But somehow, this was not detected in his background check when he was hired in 1997. Thursday, at Princeton High School, he was arrested and charged with child endangering and OVI, for transporting 33 kids and 4 adults, while police said, he was under the influence. More charges are pending.

"He was noticeably impaired," said Sharonville Police Lieutenant Mark Preuss. That's how police described bus driver John Dahlheimer's condition Thursday night.

Police said Dahlheimer dropped-off all 33 members of Colerain's band and four adults, so they could walk into the football stadium, and then circled all the way around the school before crashing his bus into two parked trucks right in front of the high school.

Dahlheimer was the only one on-board at the time of the crash and luckily no-one was in either of the two trucks he slammed into.

"Mr. Dahlheimer, after striking one of the trucks which pushed it into the second truck, was still accelerating on the gas pedal," Preuss said.

An off--duty Lincoln Heights police officer forced open the doors of Bus #29 and got control of the vehicle.

"At this point and time it was determined that Mr. Dahlheimer was operating this bus while he was impaired," Preuss said. "We believe he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs."

Police said he cooperated fully and was charged with OVI.

"He tested .229 blood alcohol content," Preuss said. "He was also suspected of being under the influence of a controlled substance, as several prescription medications were also found with him in the bus."

Police confiscated a large bottle of Jagermeister, which was found hidden on the bus in a cooler, as well as a bottle of pills with Darvocet, a pain killer and Klonopin, an anti-seizure medication, all mixed together.

"There are some prescriptions that double the effects of alcohol you see on the sides of those pill bottles," Preuss said. "We all get them at the drugstore, don't take this with alcohol don't operate heavy machinery, well guess what a school bus is, that's a big piece of machinery!"

Northwest Superintendent Rick Glatfelter would not talk on-camera, but did release this statement:

"We are very disappointed with the events that led to the arrest of bus driver John Dahlheimer. We are responsible for protecting our students by providing a safe environment for them. In this case we failed. We are thankful no students or parents were injured and we apologize for placing them at risk."

The Superintendent also said Dahlheimer's bus driver's license was up for renewal next year, but the process of doing background checks just for renewals, was not instituted until 2008-2009, so that may be one way, no one may have known about his prior OVI.

And how that prior conviction never showed-up on a background check is still being looked into.

Dahlheimer could be terminated as soon as they finish their internal investigation.

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