A bus driver who was transporting students to Ben Steele Middle School in Billings, Montana yesterday is now facing multiple felony charges on suspicion of driving under the influence, reports Q2 News.
The 46-year-old bus driver was arrested after students informed school officials of the “erratic and unsafe driving behavior.”
Police believe driver was under the influence of drugs
Billings Police Lt. Brandon Wooley told Q2 News that a school resource officer contacted the driver, Keith Jones, and began a DUI investigation.
Jones could face 28 counts of felony criminal endangerment, one count for each middle school student who was aboard the bus that day.
According to the Billings Gazette, Jones was employed through bus company “First Student,” but he has since been terminated. The company has a policy of randomly drug testing drivers.
“We are incredibly disappointed by our former driver’s actions,” said Chris Kemper, Senior Director of Corporate Communications at First Student.
“First Student has a zero-tolerance policy for employees whose actions may put others at risk. Behavior such as this is completely unacceptable and at odds with what we stand for as a company.”
Student says the driving was ‘scary’
Q2 news also spoke to some of the students who were aboard the school bus to learn what it was like to experience the driving firsthand.
“It was very scary,” said middle schooler Austin Turner. “He hit a lot of curbs when we were driving. He looked like something was wrong. He kept bobbing his head and when he had to stop, he’d throw his arms a couple times. It almost looked like he fell asleep on the wheel.”
Austin’s mother, Kyla, also spoke to the outlet.
“When he first told me, I thought maybe it was just kids being kids,” she said. “Just busy – playing around more than anything – until I seen the look in his eyes that it was something that he shouldn’t have had to live through. As we were driving out here, he informed me that they hit [the curb] hard enough that a bunch of the kids bounced. And he ended up landing on a kid two grades above him, and he broke his fall. So he must have hit it pretty good to throw the kids the way he did.”
Jones is at Yellowstone County Detention Facility awaiting charges.
Not the first bus driver DUI for the school district
The Billings Gazette looked through their archives and discovered that in 2009, another bus driver for First Student in Billings was arrested for a DUI incident.
That time, the driver was drunk. He ran a red light at about seven in the morning and hit a 15-year-old girl. Fortunately, the girl was not killed, but she did break her leg.
He briefly got out of the bus, reports say, but he continued driving the students to school without helping the girl.
That driver was sentenced to six years in prison for felony negligent vehicular assault and criminal endangerment.