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BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. - An Alabama school bus driver was arrested Friday after a student who suspected the woman was drunk forced her to stop driving and alerted authorities.
Vicki Lynn Patrick, 57, of Robertsdale, is charged with driving under the influence and reckless endangerment, according to Baldwin County Jail records. She remained in jail Tuesday morning in lieu of $35,000 bond.
Baldwin County Superintendent Eddie Tyler told local media that Patrick’s blood-alcohol level was 15 times over the .02 legal limit for CDL licensed drivers following her arrest.
WKRG in Mobile reported that Patrick’s $10,000 bail amount for the DUI charge is about 10 times the typical bond issued for those suspected of impaired driving.
“She was entrusted with the care of our children and grossly violated that trust,” a prosecutor told the court during Patrick’s bond hearing, the news station reported.
The $25,000 bail for the reckless endangerment charge represents $1,000 for each child that was on the bus when Patrick was arrested, WKRG reported.
Fox 10 in Mobile reported that Patrick was driving a mix of 25 elementary, middle and high school students home Friday afternoon when it became apparent to the students that something was wrong.
“She was swerving on the road and she was going really fast, and then she was going really slow,” Cody Butler, a 16-year-old sophomore at Robertsdale High School, told the news station.
Butler said he went to the front of the bus to see if the longtime bus driver was all right.
“When I smelled alcohol and she was slurring, that’s when I walked back to my seat and called my mom and told her what was going on,” the teen said.
Butler’s mother called 911.
Witnesses told WKRG that a student pulled the emergency exit door, which forced Patrick to pull over. It was not clear if Butler was the student who pulled the door.
Another student passenger told the news station that Patrick could barely speak.
“We started going, she tried talking on the intercom (and) couldn’t really talk that well, and then she started swerving,” Hunter Roberts, 13, said.
Butler told Fox 10 that Patrick pulled the bus over once an alarm sounded. She tried to call another bus to pick up the children, but couldn’t form a complete sentence, the teen said.
“I didn’t let her turn on the bus,” Butler said. “I just kept saying, ‘Just stay where you are,’ and people were coming.”
A Baldwin County Schools employee driving by noticed the bus and stopped to see what was going on.
“He was asking what was wrong, and she said everything was fine and we were getting a new bus,” Butler said. “I made hand motions for him to come help. I mouthed that she was drunk.”
Sheriff’s deputies soon arrived at the scene.
WKRG reported that Patrick, who deputies said “reeked of the smell of a fermented beverage,” refused to take a field sobriety test. She was disoriented and could hardly stand or answer the deputies’ questions, authorities said.
After being medically evaluated, she was placed under arrest.
The judge who set Patrick’s bail suspended her driving privileges and forbade her from drinking alcohol, the news station reported. She was also ordered to not have contact with the children who were on the bus Friday or their families.