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Charges In Florida High Bus Accident Upgraded To DUI Manslaughter

By: James Buechele, Leon County Sheriff's Office; Lanetra Bennett Email
By: James Buechele, Leon County Sheriff's Office; Lanetra Bennett Email
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UPDATED
By Julie Montanaro
May 8, 2014

A DUI manslaughter case will go forward in a deadly crash in which the driver of a bus carrying the Florida High track team was killed.

A judge threw out a plea in the case today and ruled the defense attorney misled her into signing it.

Sarah Walker was initially arrested for DUI and DUI with property damage in connection with the crash on April 18.

Prosecutors later charged her with DUI manslaughter.

At issue today. a plea Walker entered on a Saturday morning to the charge of DUI with property damage.

Prosecutors claim Walker's attorney was trying to create a double jeopardy scenario and asked that the plea be set aside.

The judge agreed.

"I don't think it has the potential to derail the DUI manslaughter case. I think what the judge found today was that the DUI manslaughter case is going to remain intact and we're going to proceed with it as we would normally," prosecutor Georgia Cappleman said after the hearing.

Walker's attorneys would not comment on the judge's decision after the hearing.

During the hearing, Walker's attorneys called the plea "strategy." They argued Judge Caloca Johnson did have jurisdiction in the case, accepted the plea and even signed the plea form.

"You have a deceased victim. You have a deceased victim's family. You can't very well say to a deceased victim's family 'Our bad, guess we should have objected to the plea at first appearance," defense attorney Nathan Prince argued during the hearing. "You gotta point the finger at somebody."


Updated By: Julie Montanaro
May 6, 2014

Attorneys are arguing over a drunk driving plea in a deadly bus crash.

Sarah Walker is accused of DUI manslaughter in the death of bus driver William Fowler.

Court records show she entered a plea to DUI with property damage at her first appearance on April 26th.

Now prosecutors want that plea set aside. In a motion filed with the court, they said it could have a "huge impact" on the DUI manslaughter case. They raised the issue of double jeopardy and questioned whether Walker's lawyer misled the court.

A court hearing is set for Thursday.

Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman had no comment on the pending motion. Defense attorney Nathan Prince sent this statement:

"While our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the events that took place on April 18th, Ms. Walker entered a plea which the State allowed. The State’s motion to vacate the plea is a transparent afterthought in their attempt to shift the focus of public scrutiny off the Office of the State Attorney.

Law Offices of Pumphrey & Prince"


News Release: Leon County Sheriff's Office
April 25, 2014

Today, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office obtained a warrant for the arrest of Sarah M. Walker for DUI Manslaughter in the death of William R. Fowler II. Fowler was killed in a traffic crash on April 18, 2014 involving a Florida State University High School bus at the intersection of Apalachee Parkway and Conner Boulevard. Walker turned herself in at the Leon County Jail.


By: Lanetra Bennett
April 18, 2014

Tallahassee, FL - A school bus carrying the Florida High School track team crashed early Friday morning.

The bus driver was killed and two students were sent to the hospital.

Authorities have now confirmed the identity of the school bus driver. They say it was 65-year-old William Fowler. The driver of the car that authorities say pulled in front of his bus is facing charges.

The crash happened at the intersection of Apalachee Parkway and Conner Boulevard around 2:30 a.m.

Leon County deputies say Fowler was killed on the scene. School administrators say two students and two coaches were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

Stephen Bowen, the Associate Director at Florida High, says, "You can imagine any type of accident, if you've ever been in one, it can be a scary situation. But, we feel like all the local authorities have rallied in and taken care of things for us. Our school staff and administration, we have plans in place to handle these types of situations."

Deputies say there were 33 people on the school bus, which includes the team and coaches. They were on the way back from a track meet in Jacksonville.

When the crash happened, deputies say the bus was driving west on Apalachee Parkway. "The gold Camry was traveling eastbound on Apalachee Parkway and turned north onto Conner Boulevard, striking the school bus. After impact, the school bus traveled off the side of the road, struck the traffic signal pole." Says, CAPT James McQuaig with LCSO.

Authorities say that Camry driver, 25-year-old Sarah Walker, was taken to jail from the scene and charged with D.U.I.

Walker was bonded out of jail just before 2 p.m Friday. She was
being held on $1,000 bond. Her arraignment is set for May 22nd at 1:30 p.m.

One parent of a Florida High student, Angela Ward, says, "It makes me feel sad because here we go again with another drunk driver out endangering the lives of people, not only the students. But, it's really, really sad. People really need to consider their habits and what they're doing and how they affect others."

School administrators say the remaining students on scene were taken to the nearby Walmart parking lot. Bowen says, "StarMetro was very instrumental; along with the Leon County Sheriff's Office and Tallahassee Police Department. They were able to handle the scene very well. So, all students were reunited with their parents and it went well."

Ward says, "Praying for them all and even the drunk driver, praying for her, too."


By: Eyewitness News
April 18, 2014 - 3:45pm

Tallahassee, FL - 25-year-old Sarah Walker was bonded out of jail just before 2pm Friday.


News Release: Leon County Sheriff's Office
April 18, 2014 - 12:15pm

At 2:25 am, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office responded to a traffic crash at the intersection of Apalachee Parkway and Conner Boulevard. Deputies and first responders from the Tallahassee Fire Department, the Tallahassee Police Department, FSU Police Department and Leon County Emergency Medical Services responded. Deputies have determined that a Florida State University High School bus was traveling west on Apalachee Parkway, approaching the intersection of Conner Boulevard. The bus contained 33 passengers which included students and coaches from Florida High School’s Track Team.

The preliminary investigation at the scene indicates that a 2009 gold Toyota Camry driven by Sarah M. Walker, 25, was traveling east on Apalachee Parkway and was turning north onto Conner Boulevard when the Camry struck to bus. After the initial impact, the bus veered off the road and struck a traffic signal pole. The bus driver, 65 year old William R. Fowler II did not survive the crash. Additionally, two students and one coach were transported to Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare for non-life threatening
injuries.

Based on the investigation at the scene, Walker was arrested for Driving under the Influence and transported to the Leon County Jail. This investigation is continuing and additional information will be released as it becomes available.



News Release: Florida State University Schools

Many of you may have heard that while returning from a track meet in Jacksonville the bus transporting the track team was involved in an accident.

The accident occurred on Apalachee Pkwy. and Conner Blvd. and was caused by a vehicle making a left turn in front of the bus.

The driver of the vehicle was charged with DUI.

Two of our students and two of our coaches were taken to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital for minor injuries.

FSUS will be providing counseling for any of the students or faculty involved as needed.

The Leon County Sheriff’s Department will be handling the investigation.

No other information is available at this time.


By: James Buechele
April 18, 2014 - 5:30am

Authorities say another car was involved in the accident with the school bus. They say the vehicle was making a left turn onto Conner Blvd. when it hit the bus. The bus then went into an embankment and hit a pole.

The female driver of the car has been arrested and charged with DUI.

Authorities say two students and a coach have been taken to the hospital with minor injuries. No word on the status of the bus driver.

The Leon County Sheriff's Office is reminding drivers that Apalachee Parkway is blocked off in both lanes in the Conner Blvd. area.


By: James Buechele
April 18, 2014 - 5:15am

Tallahassee Police and the Florida Highway Patrol are on the scene of an accident involving a Florida High school bus. Authorities say the school's track team was on the bus, returning from a meet in Jacksonville, when the bus slid off the road and hit a pole.

Officers say some students were taken to the nearby Walmart to be picked up. No word yet on any injuries.

WCTV has a reporter on the scene and will bring you more information as it becomes available.


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