Santo man arrested in school bus accident that sent nine children to the hospital

Nine children were treated at a Palo Pinto hospital Friday after their school bus was rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver in Mineral Wells, police said.

A suspect, tailed by a citizen who witnessed the wreck, was tracked down by police shortly afterward and taken into custody, according to Mineral Wells Police Chief Dean Sullivan.

Matthew W. Cougar, 26, was being held in the Mineral Wells detention facility Friday afternoon awaiting transfer to the county jail, Sullivan said.

The wreck occurred about 7:30 a.m. at Farm Road 1195 and Mineral Wells Highway 379, near the Mineral Wells airport.

Sullivan said 18 to 20 students and the driver were on the bus when it was rear-ended by a pickup whose driver fled.

Nine children — including elementary, junior high and high school students — were transported as a precaution to the Palo Pinto County General Hospital. By Friday afternoon, all had been treated for minor injuries and released, Sullivan said.

Soon after the wreck, police stopped the suspected pickup driver off Garrett Morris Parkway.

“An alert citizen called 911 and followed the suspect until police were able to catch up with him,” Sullivan said. “He stayed on the phone with 911, relaying the suspect vehicle’s location as he was fleeing the scene.”

Sullivan said Cougar, a resident of Santo, faces a charge of fleeing an accident involving injury. Charges could be upgraded or changed if blood tests show Cougar was under the influence of something at the time of the wreck, he said.

“Officers initially interviewing him about what had occurred detected he didn’t appear to have all of his normal mental and physical faculties and may possibly be under the influence of something other than alcohol.” Sullivan said.