Botetourt Co., VA - A former Botetourt County school bus driver will pay a $500 fine for an accident last May that injured 14 people.
A judge cited Mary Esque for improper driving instead of the reckless driving charge the commonwealth was asking for.
Several parents who attended Wednesday's hearing were disappointed with the judge's ruling. If convicted of reckless driving, Esque could have faced up to 12 months in jail, a $2,500 fine and had her license suspended for six months.
Lisa Downey's three children were on bus 41 when the bus driver admits she became distracted.
Esque told state police she was looking up in the rear view mirror to tell a student to turn around in his seat when she ran off the road and the bus flipped over. The crash sent 13 to the hospital.
"My daughter had a bad concussion; she had to be transported by ambulance. My son was one of the ones that kicked open the back door," said Downey.
The bus driver slipped out of the Botetourt county Courthouse Wednesday without saying a word. But the judge reduced her charge from a misdemeanor to a traffic violation because he said she became distracted trying to keep the children safe.
"I'm very disappointed they didn't find her guilty of reckless driving," said Downey.
Downey says it wasn't the first time her children were worried about riding Esque's bus.
"I called a complaint in on the exact same road the accident was on because she was driving too fast in icy conditions and the bus slipping and sliding around."
Esque is no longer employed with Botetourt County Public Schools after driving a bus for the last six and a half years. And even though Downey's children started the new school year with a new driver, they think about that bus ride often.
"They still have days they're nervous," said Downey.
Prosecutors say Esque did everything right after the wreck. She reported it while she was still hanging upside down in her seatbelt and made sure all the children got out safely.