A Vermont school bus driver has pleaded not guilty to charges of DUI while operating a school bus and child cruelty.
Carl Lupton, 57, of Bethel, Vt., was reportedly drinking the night of March 23 before driving a school bus from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. the next day, according to myChamplainValley.com.
“A staff member came in and said ‘I think I smell alcohol on the driver's breath,’” said Orange-Windsor Supervisory Union Superintendent David Bickford.
South Royalton school officials contacted the supervisory union and Butler’s Bus Service after smelling alcohol on Lupton’s breath.
Butler’s conducted a third party sobriety test, which Lupton apparently failed. The company called police who also performed a sobriety and BAC test. Lupton blew above a .04 which is above the legal limit while driving a school bus, according to court documents. Lupton was charged with DUI while driving a school bus and child cruelty.
Emo Chynoweth, vice president of Butler’s, told FOX 44 the sobriety test was part of company policy, and when Lupton failed, he was immediately fired. Chynoweth noted that calling police after such an instance is not mandated, but they did anyway.
According to court papers, Lupton has been arrested five times for DUIs -- including the incident on March 24. He was convicted of a DUI once in 2006.
State and federal law mandate that school bus drivers undergo a three year driver’s background check. Chynoweth says they followed both laws. He claims they knew Lupton was convicted of DUI in 2006, but they wanted to give him another chance.
Lupton appeared in Windsor County Criminal Court Tuesday morning and pleaded not guilty to both DUI and child cruelty charges.
Lupton told WPTZ he had been drinking some red wine the night before he got arrested, and was surprised to find it was still in his system.
“I didn't intentionally get up on Monday morning and drive a school bus around, I never would have done that,” Lupton said. “I had a good time with the kids on the bus. I got along with them well, I loved driving them to all the football games and soccer games, I thought I had found my niche, and I’m really sorry I had to mess that up, and I am sorry to all the parents.”
Lupton says he only went inside the South Royalton School that day to report a fight that happened on his bus, and he was looking out for the safety of the students.
Lupton is set to be back in court April 26.