UPDATE, JAN. 23, 6 A.M.: Former Orange Unified School District bus driver Gerald Douglas Rupple pleaded not guilty this week to child abuse, child endangerment and perjury counts related to an April 24, 2014, crash in Anaheim Hills that left four students with significant injures such as broken bones, bleeding on the brain, a shattered spine and a toe amputation. The 25-year-old also denied four sentencing enhancements for causing great bodily injury.
While prosecutors allege Rupple lied about being cleared medically to drive and then passed out behind the wheel while the bus was going 50 mph due to a previous condition, his defense lawyer claims her client relied on diagnoses from physicians who told him it was safe to drive. "Jerry Rupple had been told by his physicians--and the DMV after an in-depth hearing to determine if he were safe to drive--that his condition posed no unreasonable danger," Jacqueline Goodman told City News Service. "He believed them. Unfortunately their determination proved wrong. He has fully cooperated with--even pestered--authorities since the accident. His primary concern has always been the welfare of the students."
ORIGINAL POST, JAN. 12, 8:21 A.M.: A former Orange Unified School District bus driver was arrested in Arizona last week and extradited to Orange County to face child abuse charges in connection with an April crash in Anaheim Hills that injured four middle school students.
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Gerald Douglas Rupple, 25, of Ajo, Arizona, faces child abuse and endangerment and perjury by declaration counts and sentencing enhancements for causing great bodily injury that could send him to prison for 19 years with a conviction.
He lost consciousness behind the wheel around 3:40 p.m. April 24, when he was driving a bus carrying 11 El Rancho Charter Middle School students and traveling about 50 mph through Anaheim Hills, the OCDA alleges. The bus swerved off the road and into several trees, causing four students to sustain such injures as broken bones, bleeding on the brain, a shattered spine and a toe amputation.
Rupple did not tell a doctor who examined him for a commercial drivers license or school district officials who interviewed him for the bus driver job that he had a condition that causes dizziness, seizures and blackouts, prosecutors allege.