Bus driver disputes DUI

Attorney: Tests show she wasn't intoxicated driving kids to school

Hugh G. Willett, knoxnews.com

Blood tests show that a Loudon school bus driver accused of driving a bus with children while under the influence of prescription drugs is not guilty of the charges, her attorney says.

Vicky Lynn Kwasny, 47, was arrested and charged with DUI and child endangerment in September after being found unresponsive behind the wheel of a school bus. She is pleading not guilty to the charges, said Lenoir City attorney Gary Fox.

Kwasny appeared in Loudon County general sessions court Wednesday. Her case was continued until March 18.

Although Kwasny admitted to arresting officers that she was taking the prescription muscle relaxant Soma, Fox said that upon reviewing results of blood and breathalyzer tests released by TBI, it is clear Kwasny was not under the influence.

"The breathalyzer test came back zero," he said. "The blood results came back within the minimum therapeutic limits."

Fox said there are a number of previously unrevealed facts that point to Kwasny's lack of impairment on the day in question. She had already delivered one busload of children that same morning without incident, he said.

While driving the second load of children to the elementary school, Kwasny began feeling ill and decided to pull the bus off the road into a church parking lot, he said.

"She did as she was trained to do," Fox said.

A member of Loudon County Fire and Rescue spotted the bus stopped in the parking lot and alerted police. Officer Dwayne Williams responded to the call and said he found Kwasny unresponsive behind the wheel and unable to stand without assistance.

Loudon Police Chief James "Bear" Webb said that he believes there is sufficient evidence to justify the charge of DUI and reckless endangerment.

In addition to the presence of drugs in Kwasny's system, other evidence, including the testimony of the children on the bus and the report of the arresting officer, supports the charges, Webb said.

During a school board hearing on the issue, it was revealed that several weeks before the incident, a physician gave Kwasny the go-ahead to continue driving, despite the fact that a Loudon police officer and school board member had warned school officials that he suspected she had a drug problem.

Kwasny did not test positive for any illegal drugs and admitted to the physician that she had been taking Soma under prescription. According to school board member Craig Simon, Kwasny should not have been operating a commercial vehicle while taking the medication.

During a subsequent review of school department policy, it was decided that bus drivers should inform the school department of any prescription medication they are using.

District Attorney General Russell Johnson's office did not respond to a request for comment on the case.