Man charged in bus accident identified, appears in court

Man charged in bus accident identified, appears in court

JONES COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - The Jones County man charged in a hit-and-run bus accident had his initial appearance in court Friday.

Jonathan Scott Pates, 30, of Sandersville is charged with aggravated assault – Injuring a child who is boarding or exiting a school bus, which is in violation of Nathan's Law.

His bond was set at $100,000. If convicted, Pates could receive a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

According to authorities, Pates hit the school bus at a bus stop on Eastview Drive in Jones County and left the scene.

Authorities later received a call of a suspicious vehicle on Ponderosa Lane in Sandersville. Authorities said the vehicle raised concerns because of its extensive damage.

Pates was later caught and arrested.

According to the Jones County Sheriff's Department, a teenager was injured in the accident. She was taken to a local hospital, treated and later released.

Authorities said this is the first time someone has been charged in Jones County with a statue from Nathan's Law.

Sheriff Alex Hodge said this accident should remind everyone to watch for children loading and unloading school buses.

"The message we continuously send whether it involves a school bus or period, people just need to pay attention when they're driving," said Hodge.

Lori McJohnson, founder of Nathan's Law, said she's glad that the student wasn't seriously hurt. She also said she realizes that this is a very serious issue.

"It just validates the fact that Nathan's death really means something, and that we are able to help other children," said McJohsnon. "And that people be held accountable for their actions that injure other children," McJohnson added.

Senator Chris McDaniel authored Nathan's Law after 5-year-old Nathan Key was struck by a driver passing a school bus in December 2009.

The law places strict penalties on those who break driving laws around school buses.

Drivers must stay 10 feet away from school buses, and cannot pass a bus with flashing lights and a stop sign. Penalties include a $350 to $750 fine, a revoked driver's license and jail time.