MEDINA — A van driver transporting special needs children was charged Thursday by Medina police with operating a motor vehicle while impaired.
At least three students and one adult male aide were in a transport van when police pulled over Andrew Sasala, 66, of the 80 block of Clearwater Drive, Brunswick. According to a press release from Medina police, Sasala is charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and endangering children, both first-degree misdemeanors.
The release said the incident started in North Royalton.
The Medina dispatch center received a call at approximately 4 p.m. Thursday regarding a possible intoxicated driver at Pawpaw Picnic Area in the Cleveland Metro Parks in North Royalton. Pawpaw Picnic Area is in the Mill Stream Run Reservation.
A park employee reported observing the driver of a transport van exit the vehicle. He said the van rolled backward over a curb with no driver in the vehicle. The driver also threw a bottle of wine in a garbage can, the release said.
North Royalton police checked the area, but were unable to locate the van. The vehicle was later located in the 100 block of Lafayette Road in Medina.
Medina police Chief Ed Kinney said it was his impression that Sasala was transporting children to their home from a school facility in Cleveland. Sasala is a driver with Suburban School Transportation Services in Brunswick.
Sasala was given field sobriety tests, which police said he performed poorly on, and was charged with OVI. His blood-alcohol level was 0.108 percent. He was booked into Medina County Jail and released on his own recognizance.
Police said there were no injuries to the children in the van. Suburban School Transportation sent another driver to complete the drop off route. The transportation company is contracted by Medina Schools to transport special needs children and children who attend school outside of the district.
A phone call to Suburban School Transportation seeking comment was not returned Friday.
Medina Schools Superintendent Aaron Sable addressed the incident in a Facebook post Friday. He said the students were coming home from the Cleveland Clinic Lerner School for Autism.
“Suburban Transportation is a local company that we, as well as surrounding districts in Northeast Ohio, utilize and are not employees of Medina City Schools,” he said in the post. “Their services are typically requested to provide support beyond district transportation departments. Medina City Schools has a long history of contracting with this company without any negative incidents. This however, does not dismiss our concern regarding this situation. As a district, the safety and security of our students is always of high priority. The situation is being addressed with Suburban and is a continuing police matter with the Medina City Police Department.”