Montco bus driver sentenced to community service in fatality

Posted: June 07, 2014

Shirley Wilhelm was an active 78-year-old who enjoyed helping the homeless in Pottstown and taking a daily five-mile walk.

Last year, she was killed when a school bus driven by Donna M. Engler struck her on one of those walks. On Thursday, Engler, who had pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, was sentenced to 600 hours of community service - working with the homeless of Pottstown.

The accident occurred at 7:08 a.m. Sept. 9 at Charlotte and Mervine Streets, on the border of Lower Pottsgrove Township and Pottstown Borough, according to a court document.

Officers from the township and borough police departments found Wilhelm's body. Investigators learned that the vehicle, used to transport students to a private high school in Royersford, had not stopped.

About two hours after police arrived at the scene, Engler contacted Lower Pottsgrove officers and said she might have been the driver of a bus involved in an accident. An investigation revealed that Engler had stopped for a red light, then made a right turn, not seeing Wilhelm, of Pottstown, or realizing the bus had hit her.

Engler, 64, of Perkiomenville, Montgomery County, pleaded guilty in January to a misdemeanor count of involuntary manslaughter and a summary count of careless driving-unintentional death.

Thursday, Montgomery County Court Judge Gary S. Silow sentenced Engler - who had no criminal history, cooperated with authorities, and expressed deep remorse - to the community service and three years on probation.

"I think that it was a reasonable decision for the judge to make," Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Reifsnyder said. The victim's family "was more concerned about community service than it was about jail time."


cdavis@phillynews.com

610-313-8109

@carolyntweets

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