School bus driver arrested on DWI charge
The driver of an unoccupied mini school bus was drunk, with a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit and a half-empty vodka bottle in the vehicle, when he was stopped on the Long Island Expressway in Ronkonkoma, Suffolk County sheriffs said Thursday.
Robert Stundis, 48, of Bohemia, told deputies he had just dropped off students from a middle school when he was pulled over at about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, just east of Exit 60, according to a news release.
Deputies responded after 911 calls reported a school bus with a shredded front tire traveling slowly in the right lane of the westbound LIE and having problems "maintaining its lane," said Mike Sharkey, chief of staff for the sheriff's office. The first calls came when the bus was spotted at Exit 62, he said.
A half-empty 375-milliliter vodka bottle was found on the center console, prosecutors said.
Stundis failed sobriety tests and provided a breath-test reading of 0.23 percent, sheriffs said. It was unclear Thursday night when the last student was dropped off.
A spokesman for the bus company, Acme Bus Co. in Ronkonkoma, said he did not know which school Stundis serviced.
But the Three Village Central school district Thursday night posted a "safety alert" that said an Acme driver had been charged with DWI after dropping off its students. Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich also left an automated phone message for parents, saying the district was cooperating with investigations.
Shannon Ryan said she was going south on Nicolls Road, about a mile from the LIE, when she noticed a bus with a smoking, flat tire swerve from the right lane to the left and then back to the shoulder.
"I expected him to stop the bus and that's why he's pulling over to the shoulder but then he kept going," said Ryan, who called 911.
The bus then drove slowly in the right lane of the LIE service road, she said, before suddenly speeding and swerving to enter the LIE.
"It was just beyond me," she said. "I was staring at the bus passenger seats just to make sure there were no kids . . . I was just so upset."
District spokeswoman Deirdre Gilligan said Three Village uses Acme on a limited basis and that Stundis transported fewer than 20 students Wednesday.
Stundis was arrested on a charge of aggravated driving while intoxicated. At his arraignment yesterday, he was ordered held pending a $25,000 cash bail or $100,000 bond.
He pleaded guilty in 1992 to driving while ability impaired due to alcohol, said the Suffolk district attorney's office.
Acme's Jim Poisella Jr. said the incident is being investigated by the company but that he did not have specific information about Stundis' arrest and the schools serviced.
Stundis, who has been with the company 10 years, has been suspended without pay, Poisella said. He said there have been no prior incidents regarding Stundis' driving record.
Poisella said its drivers are regularly and randomly tested for drugs and alcohol, as required by the state.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly included a photo and video of an unrelated accident involving a school bus operated by a different bus company that occurred on Oct. 3, 2012.