The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Driver strikes team bus


Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

The damaged school bus is now parked up on Seward High School grounds.

A driver swerved across the Seward Highway near Stoney Creek Saturday evening and struck a school bus returning from a high school football game in Homer. Twenty-six students from Seward High School and their driver, coach Kelly Cinereski, escaped injury as the vehicles came to rest. The accident happened at about 10:46 p.m. and Alaska State Troopers responded at 11:10 p.m. Brandon L. Mason, 29, was arrested and he submitted to a breath test that indicated a 0.258 blood alcohol level.

According to witnesses, Mason emerged from his Toyota pickup in a dazed state, and had difficulty walking and speaking clearly, according to reports read at a Monday arraignment. Bystanders reported a strong odor of alcohol from his person and clothing. After a short exchange, Mason ran from the scene and hid behind a fuel tank at a nearby residence. Reportedly, he had recently left the Yukon Bar in Seward. At the scene he was corralled by pursuers and detained on a lawn chair until AST arrived. When asked why he ran away, Mason reportedly said that he was scared.

Mason is charged with three misdemeanors including driving under the influence of alcohol, leaving the scene of an accident and reckless endangerment. Troopers remanded him to Seward Community Jail early Sunday.

The state planned to arraign Mason on Sunday, but delayed the action when a test indicated he had a 0.11 blood alcohol level.

At the Monday arraignment in Seward’s court the district attorney assigned to the case, Helen Hickmon, asked for maximum penalties and terms along with a special bond considering Mason’s high functioning at that level of intoxication and the likelihood of associated chronic alcohol abuse.

The terms included no consumption of alcohol at any time, no attendance where alcohol is served and submission to alcohol testing at any time. Magistrate George Peck noted that the three misdemeanors and associated circumstances indicated essentially felony level conduct. The one consolidated count of reckless endangerment could have been 27 counts, one for each person on the bus, if not assault with a dangerous instrument which is a felony in itself, Peck said.

Mason, a cement truck operator on the North Slope for Schlumberger, asked for the use of driving privileges until trial. Peck, after consulting with Hickmon, found that untenable and suggested working with DMV to obtain any driving privileges.

“You’ve got a big pile on your plate,” Peck continued. “Would you like counsel?” Mason indicated he had secured an attorney and a not guilty plea was entered. The next hearing is scheduled for late October.

On Monday Mason was released upon posting a $5,000 cash bond.


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