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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

 

School bus driver drunk taking kids from school

Cops: School bus driver drunk while taking kids from school

March 10, 2010

Chicago Tribune

 A Mount Prospect school bus driver was nearly three times over the legal limit for alcohol after she dropped off about 50 children from an elementary school, police say.

Betty Burden, 54, of the 1440 block of Park Drive, was arrested late Tuesday afternoon after police got a call from Vincente Ramirez, the transportation supervisor with Mount Prospect School District 57 around 3:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Another bus driver had smelled alcohol on Burden's breath at 2:30 p.m., before she took off from Lions Elementary School. But school officials said state law prevented either her or Ramirez from confronting Burden.

Instead, Ramirez followed the bus and eventually called police. By the time officers pulled her over around 4 p.m., Burden had dropped off all the children, officials said.
Supt. Elaine Aumiller said state law barred school officials from intervening.

"It's a tough administrative call," Aumiller said. "There were children on the bus during the time she was under the influence. Thank God nothing happened."

Assistant Cook County State's Atty. Mark Javier said in court today that Ramirez followed Burden as she dropped off children and called police when Burden's driving appeared erratic.

But the superintendent disputed that, saying the bus was not weaving.

When police pulled Burden over on River Road, just north of Euclid Avenue, officers "immediately smelled the odor of an alcoholic beverage on Burden's breath" and also noticed other physical signs of "alchohol impairment,"  police said.

She failed "all field sobriety tests administered to her," and was taken to the Mount Prospect police station, police said. The woman consented to a breath test, which registered her blood alcohol level at .226. The legal limit is .08, officials said.

Burden admitted to police she had been drinking vodka and orange juice before driving. She's been a driver for the system for 10 years, authorities said.

The superintendent said Ramirez could not smell alcohol on Burden, though officers said they noticed the smell immediately. He did not question or confront her about drinking, but instead followed her.

"He called police right away," she said. "We didn't catch that smell. .. We couldn't even confront her. This is not a District 57 procedure. It is based on Illinois School Code. It spells out very clearly what you can and can't do. Our person followed it to the letter. When we couldn't verify it on their own, he called police."

Contradicting prosecutors, the superintendent said there was no sign of erratic driving. She said it is possible officials waited "so they (the children) don't become witness to an arrest."

Burden's husband Michael, contacted by phone, said she was not available. He declined comment.

She was charged with aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol for being under the influence while transporting passengers under the age of 18, officials said. She was ordered held today on $10,000 bail by Circuit Court Judge Joseph Urso who ordered her not to drive any school buses while the case is pending.

Her next court date was scheduled for April 1.

 LINK TO PHOTO: 

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-mug-photogallery,0,5488047.photogallery

 


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