A District 50 school bus driver was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence after he crashed a bus with children on it in Gurnee Wednesday, prosecutors said.
Ryan J. Vanheirseele, 36, of Gurnee, was charged with aggravated driving under the influence, two counts of driving under the influence of alcohol and improper traffic lane usage.
Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Kelse Banks said Vanheirseele was driving a school bus with seven middle school children on it.
Vanheirseele made a turn and went onto a curb and the bus struck a brick mailbox in Gurnee.
Officers arrived and Vanheirseele denied that he had been drinking and said he “blacked out” during the crash, Banks said.
Vanheirseele performed field sobriety tests and officers reported that he failed the tests.
Officers searched the bus and found the man’s backpack, which had suspected alcoholic beverages, Banks said.
Vanheirseele also had out a cup of lemonade which smelled like it had alcohol mixed in, Banks said.
Officers arrested Vanheirseele and brought him back to the police department where blew a 0.134.
Illinois has zero-tolerance laws for commercial vehicle drivers, meaning they are not allowed to have any alcohol in their blood at all.
Banks asked the court to impose a $75,000 cash bond because of the aggravating circumstances.
Lake County Judge Bolling Haxall allowed Vanheirseele to be released from custody on a $40,000 personal recognizance bond.
Haxall called the allegations serious but said Vanheirseele has a minimal criminal history and is unlikely to re-offend.
Woodland District 50 Superintendent Dr. Robert Machak said in a statement that the district is fully cooperating with law enforcement in investigating “this very serious matter.”
The district has launched its own internal investigation and Vanheirseele has been suspended from operating any district vehicles.
“Woodland is committed to protecting the safety of our children and we will remain vigilant in taking all necessary steps to ensure that they are transported in a safe and supportive,” Machak said.
Vanheirseele is scheduled to appear in court again on January 9 for a preliminary hearing.