A Madison bus company is apologizing for and has fired one of its drivers, who was accused of being intoxicated while students were on board.
"We are deeply saddened by this incident and are thankful for the assistance provided by the police,” Badger Bus co-owner John Meier said in a statement released Thursday. “Our apologies go out to parents, students and the Verona and Madison communities for this regrettable incident."
Deputies were called shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday after three separate reports of a Badger Bus school bus driving erratically in the city and town of Verona. The callers reported the bus traveling at high speeds, weaving all over the road, running yellow traffic lights and crossing the center line, nearly striking an oncoming vehicle.
Deputies said they stopped the bus driver on Shady Oak Lane just north of County Road PD in the town of Verona.
Bus company officials said a replacement bus was immediately sent to the location, and the route was completed without further incident.
The driver, Matthew Frings, 25, denied using any alcohol or drugs, but failed field sobriety tests, according to a news release. He was arrested on suspicion of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance or other drug. He was taken to Meriter Hospital for a blood draw.
A 10-year-old boy was on the bus, deputies said. Frings had picked up the boy to take him to school. Deputies said Frings faces an enhanced charge because a child was on board.
Badger Bus co-owner John Meier said in an email to Verona School District families that "we do not have any confirmation of the cause of the driver's erratic behavior. Regardless, I have made the decision to relieve the driver of his duties. He will not be driving for Badger Bus Lines."
Verona schools spokeswoman Kelly Kloepping said there were other children on the bus from at least two district schools. She said the students were heading to New Century School and Sugar Creek Elementary.
"All employees undergo a thorough pre-employment process and ongoing monitoring, following Department of Transportation guidelines,” Meier said. “Badger Bus meets state and federal mandates for school bus drivers, and our screening, training and monitoring are part of the many steps taken prior to employment. These steps include drug and alcohol testing, an MVR check and a criminal background check."
Meier said Badger Bus will look at ways to enhance procedures already in place to help avoid a similar incident from happening in the future.
Those steps include working with a third-party bus safety consultant to review policies, procedures and protocols; continued review and implementation of the company's employee awareness program; and identifying goals for a safety and training team to work on areas of concern.
"I will say again with all sincerity that I am so sorry that this event occurred. I ask that you please not allow the actions of this one driver to taint your view or question the competency of all of our drivers. We believe that all of our drivers, with this notable exception, take their jobs and the safety of the children on their bus very seriously," Meier said in the email.