A school minibus driver who pleaded guilty in February to driving drunk and plowing into a Syosset home with five children on board in October will serve a year in jail for his crime.
Frederick Flowers, 66, of Massapequa Park, faced District Court Judge Erica Prager in his orange prison jump suit Monday and apologized for causing the crash that sent the minibus careening across a lawn before it slammed into a Tiebrook Avenue home.
"I'm thankful for a second chance to get help and regain the trust of my family, the children I endangered and their parents," he said.
If Flowers had been convicted after trial, he would have faced a maximum of 11/3 to 4 years in prison.
None of the five students on the bus, a 5-, 6- and 8-year-old and two 9-year-olds, was injured when it skidded across a lawn and into the attached garage of the house. No one was injured in the house either.
Prosecutor Katie Zizza read a letter in court from the mother of the 8-year-old, but said the mother had asked that their names remain confidential. She recounted her emotions as she arrived at the scene to see the smashed school bus.
"My heart just stopped as I thought there were casualties," she said. "All the children on the bus were crying and scared, and they were trapped," she said. She said that her young son had checked Flowers' condition, then opened the emergency door in the back of the bus.
Flowers pleaded guilty in February to aggravated driving while intoxicated under Leandra's Law -- which makes it a felony to drive drunk with children younger than 16 -- drunken driving and other charges. He has been in jail since the crash, so will likely be released in the coming months. He was also sentenced to 5 years' probation.
Prager said she was glad to hear that Flowers took responsibility for the terrible decision he made.
"We as a society have an obligation to protect our most vulnerable members, and that includes our children," she said. "It is a tremendous leap of faith for us to put our children on a bus five times a week and trust that they will arrive on the other end."