LOCKPORT – A city man with a history of drunken driving charges admitted he had been drinking in a Niagara Street bar Friday afternoon prior to backing into a passing school bus loaded with 48 Emmet Belknap Middle School students, police said. Two children suffered minor injuries.
Gerald R. Wohleben, 55, of Rapids Road, was arraigned in City Court Monday on charges of felony driving while intoxicated, due to a previous conviction on June 29, 2011, as well as unsafe backing and operating without insurance. He also was charged with aggravated DWI after he was found with a blood-alcohol level above 0.18, more than twice the legal limit, police reported.
Wohleben was accused of backing out of the parking lot on the north side of the Niagara Hotel at 3:15 p.m. Friday, a bar which is less than a block away from Lockport Police Headquarters.
Lockport Police Capt. Michael Niethe said 48 middle-schoolers, ages 9 to 11 were on the bus, which was heading east and stopped in front of the Niagara Hotel parking lot when it was it was struck by Wohleben’s vehicle.
An 11-year-old boy he hit his head on a window and a 9-year-old girl struck her head on the seat in front of her. Both declined treatment at the scene, according to Niethe.
Niethe said Wohlenben failed all field sobriety tests at the scene and admitted he had been drinking. He also told police that he had several previous stops for drunken driving.
Wohlenben was held in the Niagara County Jail prior to his court appearance on Monday, then released after posting $500 bail.