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Hernando High teacher charged with DUI, leaving accident

BROOKSVILLE — A Hernando High School teacher was arrested Friday night after she left the scene of a crash and then failed sobriety exercises, authorities say.

Patricia Eppley, 62, was driving a 2004 Infiniti SUV north on Broad Street near Mount Fair Avenue about 9 p.m. when she crossed the center line and sideswiped a 2002 Dodge traveling south, according to a Brooksville police report. The driver of the Dodge lost control and veered into a tree but was not injured.

A witness followed Eppley as she continued north and parked in Hernando High's bus loop. At the same time, dispatchers received at least one call about a reckless driver near the school.

An officer arrived in time to see Eppley getting out of the SUV. He detected a strong odor of alcohol and noted that she could not stand without swaying. She failed several field sobriety exercises, the report said.

Breath tests conducted at the Hernando County Detention Center showed blood alcohol level at 0.062 and 0.061. Under Florida law, a driver is presumed impaired at 0.08 or higher.

Officials also collected a urine sample to send for testing.

Eppley told authorities she had a glass of wine about two hours prior to the crash and that she didn't remember getting into an accident, the report said.

She was charged with driving under the influence resulting in property damage and leaving the scene of accident with property damage. She was released after posting $300 bail, records show.

Eppley could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Currently a language arts teacher at Hernando High School, she began working for the district in 1989 as a substitute teacher before taking a full-time position in 1993 at West Hernando Middle School, where she worked briefly before transferring to Hernando High. She's taught there ever since.

Superintendent Bryan Blavatt said Eppley informed district officials of the incident, saying she was involved in a traffic violation, Blavatt said.

On Tuesday, she was removed from contact with students, which he said is standard procedure.

"It's probably prudent for her not to be in the classroom," he said.

Blavatt said district officials have not determined what future action they will take because they don't yet know the extent of the charges.

"It's just unfortunate that it took place and that it wound up in the parking lot," he said.

Times news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1431.

Hernando High teacher charged with DUI, leaving accident 10/23/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 9:30pm]
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