UPDATED: Official for company providing school bus service for West Fargo says driver "won't be coming back," breathalyzers in buses may be installed
WEST FARGO - West Fargo School District officials said today that a Valley Bus Services driver arrested on suspicion of drunken driving had passed all drug and alcohol and background checks before being hired.
The district is still investigating the incident, in which Steve C. Sauer, 59, is accused of driving a bus into a snowbank Wednesday while intoxicated as he was on his way to pick up children from Aurora Elementary.
Roger Peterson, the route manager for Valley Bus Co., said that Sauer has not officially been fired yet. Valley Bus has not had contact with Sauer, but "he won't be coming back. With what he's done, that's automatic termination."
Peterson said that the Department of Transportation blood-alcohol level for driving under the influence is 0.04 and that he's heard that the breathalyzer test result was much higher, but could not confirm the figure. He said he has not heard was Sauer's blood alcohol concentration was as determined by blood testing.
Sauer had been working about a week for the company. He had previously worked for Valley Bus in 2009 in a stint that lasted about a year, Peterson said.
In both cases, he said Sauer passed all required tests and physicals. He said Sauer had also been seen by several people during the check-in process before driving and had not appeared intoxicated.
"How he did it, I have not idea," Peterson said.
He said that Valley Bus is now investigating costs of putting breathalyzers on each bus. The devices would not allow a bus to be started if the driver was intoxicated.
Superintendent David Flowers and Transportation Director Brad Redmond said in a news conference at Leidal Education Center that the district has a good relationship with Valley Bus, which operates 12 of the district's 52 bus routes. The rest of those routes use district buses and employees, they said.
Flowers called it "one bad incident," and said "our transportation services are committed to the safety of students above all else."
Flowers said he's only received three e-mails about the incident. He said it doesn't appear fewer children are on buses today because of the incident.
Redmond said district buses travel 600,000 miles a year and that only one accident has been recorded this year. That was a minor crash as a bus backed into a car while moving in a tight area.
Flowers said he was told by Valley Bus that this is the first time in 20 years one of its drivers has been cited on suspicion of drunken driving.