Power of press not enough

Newspaper article doesn't sway judge; bus driver bears fault for crash

A former Knox County school bus driver walked into court Monday with a newspaper article as her only proof to support her plea of not guilty to a traffic offense.

But the power of the press failed to carry the day for Mary Edgeworth.

After a short trial, City Court Judge John Rosson found Edgeworth's evidence lacking. He ruled Edgeworth of Lenoir City was guilty of the traffic infraction that stemmed from a May 4 bus crash with an oncoming car.

The 61-year-old Edgeworth was found guilty of failure to maintain traffic lanes. She was ordered to pay a $15 fine and court costs, for a total of $111.50, said Susan Henry, principal secretary to Court Administrator Richard Wingate.

And Edgeworth remains ineligible to drive a bus in Knox County, according to Knox County Schools spokesman Russ Oaks. She was deemed ineligible to drive immediately after the crash.

"She would have to bring anything to us that we should know that might change that status," Oaks said Monday.

Edgeworth was driving a bus loaded with Bearden High School students when the collision occurred at 3:42 p.m. at the intersection of Gleason Road and Downtown West Boulevard.

As she approached the intersection, Edgeworth told investigators, she encountered a car stopped to make a turn.

When the bus brakes failed, Edgeworth steered the bus around the stopped vehicle but slammed into an oncoming 1995 Nissan Maxima. None of the students on the bus was badly injured. The driver of the car and her 7-year-old grandson also escaped serious harm.

Edgeworth had experienced problems with the bus brakes before leaving the school. She had relayed her concerns by radio to bus owner Richard Domnissey, but he left the decision to her about continuing the route or waiting for a replacement bus, the police investigation revealed.

Edgeworth presented Rosson with a News Sentinel article about the crash as her evidence that faulty brakes caused the wreck, not her driving. Knoxville Police Officer Donnie Sams, who investigated the crash, also testified during the hearing.

The article noted that state bus inspectors after the wreck found the rear brakes inoperable or out of adjustment and the parking brake malfunctioning.

"He found that there was some foreknowledge of the brake problem and she shouldn't have driven the bus," Henry said of Rosson's decision.

The traffic infraction will attach three points against Edgeworth's driving record.