A school-bus accident on Monday morning sent 13 children to the hospital and the driver to the Peoria County Jail.
The bus was shuttling 20 children to a Peoria district school when it jumped a curb and stopped in a residential driveway, striking two vehicles in the process. Bus driver Gary Stewart, 46, was arrested and booked for DUI after testing showed a blood-alcohol content of .04 percent. While that would typically be under Illinois’ legal limit of .08, for a commercial school-bus driver the limit is .04, which Stewart allegedly exceeded.
Stewart is likely going to contest the charges, as he says the .04 percent alcohol content is inexplicable. Stewart admitted to drinking 48 ounces of beer the night before the crash while he watched an ugly Chicago Bears’ loss on television. He also stated that he ingested an unmeasured amount of cold medicine at around 12:30 AM on Monday.
Assuming Stewart’s story to be true, there is no way that three beers alone could have given him a .04 percent level; his body would have metabolized the alcohol throughout the night and he should have had no detectable amount by the time of the 8:45 AM accident. He would have had to drink a considerable amount of cold medicine to achieve that .04 concentration, as the Nyquil he alleges to have consumed only contains 10 percent alcohol.
While Stewart is presumed innocent until proven guilty, he is currently on unpaid leave while the school district investigates the accident. If convicted, he will lose his commercial driver’s license (CDL) for one year and may face an even longer ban on transporting school children. Stewart has a prior criminal history, including felonies for delivery of a controlled substance and theft.
If any of the children suffered injuries in this car accident, their families may seek compensation for the harm done. Some parties that could potentially be liable include Gary Stewart, the bus company and the school district.