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Teen appears in court

Denies charges related to causing bus accident

A Lawrence County teen accused of causing a school bus full of students to crash last month entered pleas Wednesday in common pleas court.

Chance A. Blankenship, 18, of 50 County Road 5, Kitts Hill, pleaded not guilty to one count of fourth-degree vehicular assault and one misdemeanor count of operation in a willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property.

Judge Charles Cooper set bond at $25,000 own-recognizance and a pretrial was set for Feb. 24. Cooper also ordered that Blankenship not be allowed to drive pending the outcome of the case.

On Jan. 5, a South Point school bus was traveling westbound on State Route 243 in Getaway near Collins Career Center when a black Ford Fusion, allegedly the car Blankenship was driving, passed the school bus in a no passing zone. The car released a heavy cloud of smoke, which fogged the roadway, causing the school bus to overturn into the ditch on the side of the road.

Approximately 30 students were on the bus at the time of the crash and nine as well as the bus driver were transported to Cabell Huntington Hospital. Although there were no life-threatening injuries, some of the injuries were serious including a broken leg, broken nose and other head injuries.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol obtained a statement from Blankenship allegedly confirming that he was driving the vehicle, but that he did not know he caused the bus to crash at the time.

In other cases:

• Ruben Henninge, 27, of 803 S. Sixth St., changed his plea from not guilty to not guilty by reason of insanity. He is charged with a third-degree count of making terroristic threats against Ohio University Southern students.

He will be evaluated for competency at the time of the offense and to see whether he is competent to stand trial.

• Mark Smith, 66, of Columbus, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for five felony counts of trafficking in heroin. Smith was found guilty after a two-day jury trial last week. Cooper also ordered the man to pay fines and suspended his driver’s license for one year.