Following a terrifying episode for some New York parents, New York State Police said that they have arrested a 61-year-old man on Wednesday for driving a school bus with children inside under the influence.
This story started last week when local parents reportedly saw William Mendez — a school bus driver in Westchester County — driving strangely and called the school district, officials said in a story at WRGB-TV. The bus was stopped and the driver was taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation.
Afterward, WNBC-TV reported, state police launched an investigation into the matter, got a warrant from Westchester County district attorney's office, and obtained a biological sample from Mendez, which revealed a .22 blood alcohol level, leading to his subsequent arrest. According to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, anything above .18 is considered "evidence of aggravated driving while intoxicated."
Police also said that there were 44 children between grades 3 and 5 on board the bus at the time of the incident. They were taken home by a replacement driver.
Mendez is currently being charged under Leandra's Law — officially known as the Child Passenger Protection Act — which is a New York state-level statute that went into effect in 2009 and makes first-time drunk driving a felony if a child under the age of 16 is present in the vehicle. The law was named after Leandra Rosado, an 11-year-old girl who was killed in a drunk driving crash.
"As Superintendent, and more importantly as a parent, I fully understand the emotional impact that this incident has had on our students, families and staff," Somers Central School District Superintendent Dr. Raymond Blanch wrote in a statement to parents about the incident. "I am so very sorry that our children and families in this community have been impacted by the unfathomable actions of one person."