It was the brakes after all.
The driver of the school bus that went down an embankment near Winlock last April while carrying 32 high school soccer players has been cleared of wrongdoing, according to court documents.
The driver, 53-year-old Ronnie Withrow, was transporting the Winlock-Toledo soccer team back from a game in Vancouver, Wash., on April 9 when he said the school bus brakes failed as he took Exit 63 on Interstate 5, causing him to speed down the off-ramp, through a stop sign, across state Route 505, and down into a ravine.
When Withrow realized he had lost control of the bus as it traveled down the off-ramp, he shouted for the passengers to hang on.
The 32 Toledo-Winlock soccer players, their two managers, two coaches and the driver received superficial injuries, and no one was hospitalized.
Though the driver insisted the brakes had failed, when Washington State Patrol troopers inspected the bus, they found nothing defective with the brakes.
They issued Withrow a citation for failure to stop at a stop sign, and concluded that the cause of the collision was “inattention.”
He received a $175 traffic citation for failure to stop at a stop sign. He also resigned from his job.
Debbie Withrow, the wife of the Ronnie Withrow, who was determined to prove her husband was telling the truth about the brakes failing and to clear his name, hired a lawyer to pursue the matter.
In mid-July, the court altered the traffic citation from failure to stop at a stop sign to a citation for defective equipment, according to court documents.