- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A bus driver arrived at Leonardtown High School drunk Thursday to pick up students, according to the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office.
The driver, Ethel Quade Ressler, 67, of Mechanicsville, was arrested on multiple charges before leaving the school.
The St. Mary’s public schools’ transportation department received a complaint that the operator of bus number 603 was driving in a reckless manner and was possibly under the influence of alcohol, according to a release from the sheriff’s office.
“A community member called in and reported it” about 2:30 p.m., just before school was dismissed, Maureen Montgomery, principal at Leonardtown High, said.
She praised the person who called in the erratic driving, which allowed Ressler to be stopped before any children were transported on the school bus.
It would have been her first afternoon route of the day, according to Brad Clements, deputy superintendent of schools and operations.
About 3:15 p.m. that afternoon, school resource officer Cpl. Chad Hartzell contacted Ressler, according to the sheriff’s office.
The bus was outside the school and students were getting on at end of the school day, according to the sheriff’s office. Approximately 12 students had boarded the bus, according to the release.
While speaking with Ressler, Hartzell detected an odor of alcohol on Ressler’s breath and person, according to the sheriff’s release, and the corporal allegedly observed other signs of possible impairment.
Ressler was given a field sobriety test and, upon the completion of the test, was placed under arrest, according to the sheriff’s office.
Another driver and bus was called in to transport the students home.
Ressler was charged with driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol; driving while impaired by alcohol; attempting to drive a vehicle while impaired by alcohol while transporting a minor and other charges.
Ressler is a bus contractor and runs four buses for the school system, Clements said.
While she won't be driving a bus while the investigation is ongoing, her bus will be in service with another driver, he said.
When asked if the school system would continue the contract with Ressler if she is found guilty, Clements said he could not comment. However, he added that a contractor is not required to hold a bus driver’s license, only the actual drivers are.
The sheriff’s office is working with the St. Mary’s public school system as they conduct an internal administrative investigation, according to the sheriff’s release. Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact Hartzell at 301-475-4040.