School bus driver found drunk, arrested

FARMINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — A school bus driver in Farmington faces drunk driving and risk of injury charges after she was found operating a school bus while intoxicated, police said Wednesday.

Tammy Costello, 44, of Bristol, was released after posting a $25,000 bond.

Costello, who works for M & J Bus Co., failed field sobriety tests and blew a .139 and .134 in breathalyzer tests, police said. That is three times over the legal limit for someone driving a commercial vehicle such as a bus.

Here’s what an officer observed, according to a police news release:

An officer enroute to Irving A Robbins Middle School was behind Costello’s school bus. He saw the right tires swerve partially off the pavement onto a grassy area. The officer followed the bus to the school without observing any further violations.

At the school, the officer was greeting the children as they got off the bus. Several of the students told the officer the driver had been hitting the curbs on the way to school.

 

Costello is charged with driving under the influence, failure to drive right, and twenty counts of risk of injury to a minor, one count for every student on the bus. No students were injured and the bus was not involved in an accident.

“I didn’t smell alcohol, but her eyes were drooping down and sagging so we knew something was up,” said Connor Reynolds, Farmington.

That is how some students at the Irvine Robins Middle School started the first day back. Police arrested Costello for drunk driving right in the bus lanes as the bell rang for class.

“My friend walked into class saying his bus almost crashed everywhere and I thought it was hard to believe,” said Benny Hughes, Farmington.

“The case was called in at 7:53 in the morning, it’s not something, we do not see a lot of in Connecticut or in Farmington,” said Lt Colin Ryan, Farmington police.

Along part of the bus route is not an easy drive. There are stone walls, lamp posts and trees right up against the road. Students say there was not much room for error and that it was a scary ride.

“Swerving side to side, it got your heart beating a little faster,” said Katie Smith, Farmington.

“At one point on the main highway, she was going to the left side of the road because there were cars that were coming up,” said Reynolds.

The students were checked by the school nurse, there were no injuries.

When News 8′s Bob Wilson knocked on Costello’s door to get her side of the story, no one came to the door.

“I’m thankful that nothing happened to anyone,” said Nate Hughes, Farmington.

Costello is scheduled to be in court on Sept. 2.

This isn’t Costello’s first arrest. In 1997, she was arrested for breach of peace.

Kathleen C. Greider, from the Farmington school superintendent’s office, released the following statement:

Dear Farmington Parents, Guardians and Families,
It is with great regret that I inform you of an issue that occurred this morning with one of M and J’s bus drivers while transporting IAR students. A Farmington police officer, on his way to IAR to greet students, noticed that an IAR bus swerved slightly while driving. The officer followed the bus to the school. The Farmington Police Department acted swiftly and administered breath tests. The bus driver failed that test and was arrested. We are fortunate to have a strong collaboration with the Farmington Police Department as our police officers are highly visible across all schools.
As per our protocol, every child on the bus was brought to the nurse to be assessed for injuries or any other concerns. All students returned to class after a thorough assessment and parents were contacted. Please be assured that the safety of our students – your children – is our highest priority, and we take that responsibility very seriously. I have included a statement from the Farmington Police Department as well as the M and J Bus Company who employs this individual.
As stated, the safety of our students is our first and highest priority and although the issue was identified and addressed swiftly, we find this issue intolerable. We have been in communication with M and J and they will be conducting a thorough investigation in collaboration with the Farmington Police Department. In addition, Police Chief Melanson and I will be meeting with M and J officials today. This is the first incident of this nature that we have experienced with the M and J Bus Company; however, we hold this company to high expectations when it comes to the safety and security of our students.
Please know that we are in constant contact with the Farmington Police Department as well as the M and J Bus Company. We have been and we will continue to be clear with the bus company about our expectations. Please know our communication with this long-standing bus company in Farmington occurs on a daily basis.
I thank the Farmington Police Department for their ongoing partnership, visibility at each of our schools, diligence and swift action. I also want to extend my appreciation to Principal Donahue for his quick response to the situation and communication to the parents of students transported on the bus involved in this incident this morning.

M and J Bus Company also released a statement:

The M and J Bus Company is appalled at the incident that occurred this morning involving one of our bus drivers. We are committed to working closely with the Farmington Police Department to conduct a thorough investigation of this incident. Please know that thorough background checks of all employees are conducted by the Department of Motor Vehicles before employees are allowed to transport students. In addition, M and J conducts alcohol and drug testing when individuals are hired as well as rigorous random alcohol and drug testing.
The employee arrested this morning is currently suspended pending an investigation and follow-up action by law enforcement. We hold our employees to the highest expectations and safety is our number one priority. We apologize to the Farmington community for this incident as we are a long-standing Farmington company and we are deeply committed to the safety of ALL Farmington students. We thank the Farmington Police Department, Principal Donahue and the Farmington schools for their quick response to this incident.

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