New Castle News

May 8, 2014

Man who hit bus charged with assault, DUI

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — A man who hit a school bus was arrested for allegedly driving drunk and trying to punch a fireman.

A witness told police he had seen the driver talking on a phone when the accident occurred.

New Castle police said seven elementary students and a monitor were on the bus about 4 p.m. Tuesday when Donald Dean Watt, 54, of 10 S. Liberty St., driving a silver Pontiac Bonneville, hit the bus from behind.

A 6-year-old girl was taken to the hospital with neck pain, police said, adding the others were uninjured but were examined by ambulance personnel at the scene.

Watt is in the Lawrence County jail.

Police said they arrived at the accident scene and found Watt on the ground, being held down by a New Castle fireman. The fireman told police that when he had arrived, Watt was not in his car and witnesses said he had gone into a nearby drug store.

The fireman told police he went into the store to see if Watt had been injured and saw a man inside holding his head. He said he asked the man, identified as Watt, to step outside for evaluation, and Watt became irritated, pushed the fireman aside and asked, “Are you going to manhandle me?”

The fireman said he grabbed Watt’s arm and escorted him outside, then Watt took at swing at him. The fireman then wrestled him to the ground and held him until police arrived.

A witness told police he had seen Watt’s car traveling north and he was on the phone and not paying attention when he hit the bus.

The bus driver, Steven Byler, told police he had been stopped at a red light at the intersection when the bus was rear-ended.

A bystander told police she had been in the drug store parking lot when she saw Watt get out of the car, and he was on his phone saying, “I just left the bar, and not even a half a mile from the bar, I totaled my car.”

The police took Watt to the hospital, where he consented to a blood alcohol test.

He is charged with nine counts of recklessly endangering another person, one for each of the people on the bus.

He also is charged with aggravated assault for assaulting a firefighter in the performance of duty, simple assault, driving under the influence at the highest rate of alcohol, driving under the influence general impairment, harassment, careless driving, reckless driving and following too closely.

He was arraigned by District Judge Melissa A. Amodie, who set his bond at $25,000. His preliminary hearing is set for Wednesday.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)