Crimetracker: Cocke County bus driver facing DUI, open container charges

By: Hilary Magacs Email
By: Hilary Magacs Email

NEWPORT, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Regina White has two teens who ride the bus to and from Cocke County High School every day.

"I expect no speeding, to be aware of what the kids are doing, to be sober- that's a big expectation!" said White.

On Monday afternoon, someone saw school bus driver Cheryl Hembree buy beer at a gas station behind the high school and get back on her bus. School Resource Officer Randy Cutshaw tracked Hembree down at the church next door to the gas station and said she was drinking inside the bus.

"I noticed the bus driver sitting on the front seat - when she saw me, she jumped to the driver's seat. I boarded the bus and I saw the beer sitting on the floor in a brown bag," said Cutshaw.

Cutshaw said Hembree had already finished drinking most of the 24 ounce beer can and blew a .09 at the police station. That's twice the legal limit a commercial vehicle driver is allowed to have in his or her system. Hembree faces DUI and open container charges.

"You don't expect your kids to be in that environment. You expect them to be safe when they get on a school bus. The number one priority is the safety of your kids. Not, 'When can I go and have a drink before I drive them somewhere,'" said White.

Deputies said Hembree told them she was drinking because she wasn't driving her usual bus.

"She told me that she was nervous because the bus she was driving was four foot longer," said Cutshaw.

But over the limit means under arrest, and Sheriff Armando Fontes said he's glad Sergeant Cutshaw stopped Hembree before she picked up any kids.

"She was about to put a lot of children in danger. She was about to place some conditions that could have resulted in serious injuries or tragedy," said Fontes.

Hembree started as a substitute bus driver for Cocke County Schools last October. She was promoted to a regular route in December.

The school system said she'll be given a chance to explain herself, but it has a zero-tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol.

Hembree is free on $5,000 bond. Her court date is March 25. In the meantime, deputies said a judge ordered an interlock device for her personal car.

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