SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt. - A former bus driver for who drove students for the South Royalton School appeared in court to face charges of DUI while operating a school bus and child cruelty. Another driver for the same school district was charged with DUI earlier this school year.
Since September two bus drivers have been charged with DUI while on the clock. The most recent is 57-year-old Carl Lupton.
"A staff member came in and said 'I think i smell alcohol on the driver's breath,'" Orange-Windsor Supervisory Union Superintendent David Bickford said.
Bickford says he was made aware of the situation immediately.
According to court documents, Lupton was drinking the night of March 23 before driving a school bus from 7 a.m.- 9.a.m. the next day. When a school officials reported smelling alcohol on Lupton's breath they contacted the supervisory union and the bus company they contracted with, Butler's Bus Service.
Butler's conducted a third party sobriety test, which is company policy. When Lupton failed, they called police who also performed a sobriety and BAC test. Court documents indicate Lupton blew above a .04 which is above the legally allowed limit while driving a school bus. Lupton was charged with DUI while operating a school bus and child cruelty.
"They followed protocol," Bickford said.
"They did look after wellfare of the kids just as soon as it was reported to them they acted."
Vice President of Butler's Emo Chynoweth told FOX 44 they followed company protocol in testing Lupton. He noted that it is not mandated they call police after such an instance but they did any way. Lupton was immediately fired.
Both Bickford and police say Butler's acted responsibly in reporting the incident. But this is the second time this school year a bus driver for the school district and Butler's has been charged with DUI.
In Lupton's case there are previous DUI arrests. According to court papers, Lupton has been arrested for DUI five times including on March 24. He was convicted of DUI once in 2006.
State and federal law mandate there has to be a three year driver's background check of school bus drivers. Vice President of Butler's Bus Service Emo Chynoweth says they followed both laws. He says they were aware of Lupton's 2006 DUI conviction but they were giving him another chance.
Chynoweth says Lupton was fired immediately after he failed the sobriety test. He also noted that Butler's is full of good and responsible drivers and it's unfortunate to have two incidents in the same year. He also stressed that student safety is the biggest priority for Butler's.
David Bickford says they care committed to Butler's, there contracted school bus company for the past four years.
"Are there any second thoughts of going with Butler's Bus Service considering these two incidents with them?" Reporter David Hodges asked Bickford.
"No it could happen to anybody. And typically when bus companies change they seek out and hire the folks who previously served the communities," Bickford said.
"Do you think there was a point in this instance where student safety was in jeopardy?" Reporter David Hodges asked Bickford.
"I can't be a judge of that," Bickford said.
"That's a police matter."
Tuesday morning Lupton appeared in Windsor County Criminal Court to hear the charges he's facing. He plans on pleading not guilty to both DUI and child cruelty.
We spoke with Lupton after his court appearance. He told us that he had been drinking red wine the night before the DUI charge and that he had nothing to drink that morning.
"I had no idea after an entire night gone by I would still have had the presence of alcohol in my system," Lupton said.
"If I had known that I would not have drank that much the night before."
"I didn't intentionally get up on Monday morning and get drunk and drive a school bus around. I would never do that," Lupton said.
Lupton says he did not feel under the influence that morning and was surprised when he registered a BAC higher than .00.
"It was very much a shock and very regretful now."
To parents Lupton had simple words to say. "I'm very sorry."
"Do you think being a school bus operator is the best position for someone who has a checkered history with driving and drugs and alcohol?" reporter David Hodges asked.
"Well it won't be an option for me any more. That's for sure," Lupton said.
Police and school officials were made aware of a potential drinking issue with Lupton after a South Royalton school official reported smelling alcohol on Lupton's breath. Lupton told us the only reason he went inside the South Royalton School that day was to report a fight that had taken place on his bus. He says he was looking out for student safety.
Lupton is next scheduled to appear in court April 26.
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