State Trooper Patrick Hall, who was on routine patrol, stopped the school bus around 8 p.m. on the Maine Turnpike southbound in Scarborough after he observed it speeding in a construction zone, failing to signal lane changes, and failing to stay in one lane.
According to a news release posted Sunday on the state police Facebook page, Hall stopped the bus for erratic operation and speeding. Once he had pulled the bus driver over, Hall said he observed signs of impairment. Hall proceeded to conduct a field sobriety test on the driver, Richard Tanguay, 68, of Biddeford, before transporting him to the Cumberland County Jail in Portland.
At the jail, state police said that Tanguay was given an Intoxilyzer breath test and an exam by drug recognition experts from the Freeport Police Department. Tanguay was charged with operating under the influence of drugs, driving to endanger and endangering the welfare of a child, state police said.
Tanguay posted $500 bail and was released from the jail. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Jan. 9 in Portland District Court.
Attempts to reach Tanguay at his Biddeford home were unsuccessful Sunday night.
School officials said the bus was carrying about 30 coaches and student athletes from the Biddeford High School girls’ field hockey team, which had traveled to Oakland for the state Class A championship game. Biddeford lost the game, 3-0, to Skowhegan High School, snapping its 35-game unbeaten streak.
According to Biddeford School Superintendent Jeremy Ray, the school department’s designated spokesman on the incident, Tanguay has been placed on administrative leave pending further investigation by the school department and by state police.
“We are cooperating with the authorities,” Ray said in a statement posted Sunday on Facebook. “Authorities do not believe alcohol was a factor, but are still investigating what caused the driver’s condition. We are not able to discuss additional details as this is a personnel matter. The police may elect to share additional information with the public when the time comes, but all parties are currently working to ferret out the facts.”
“We will continue to gather the facts and interview the employee before making any conclusions about this unfortunate development,” Ray said. “But, be clear. We have zero tolerance for any behavior that imperils students.”
Contacted by phone Sunday night, Ray described Tanguay as a full-time, veteran bus driver with more than 30 years of experience. Ray said the charges filed against Tanguay are not alcohol-related.
“What we do know for sure is that this man did not take a sip of alcohol,” said Ray.
Ray said that all school bus drivers must complete an annual Maine Department of Transportation physical exam and medications screen test to qualify for a commercial driver’s license. Biddeford’s bus drivers underwent the physical exam in August, but Ray said the school department does not receive any details due to health privacy laws. All the school department gets is whether the doctor conducting the exam passed or failed the driver.
During their annual commercial driver’s license exam, drivers are required to disclose prescription medications. Doctors must determine if the drugs a driver has been prescribed will interfere with his or her ability to operate a bus, Ray said.
In addition to the annual screening tests, any employee who operates a vehicle for the Biddeford School Department is subject to random drug testing administered by a third party.
Ray said that no one on the bus Tanguay was driving reported noticing anything out of the ordinary during the ride back from Oakland.
Ray said that students texted or called their parents during the police stop, keeping them informed of what was happening. He said the field hockey coach, Caitlin Trembert, kept him informed as well. Ray in turn kept in communication with parents. He said a substitute bus driver was notified and drove the students’ bus back to Biddeford.
Saturday night’s incident was not the first one involving a school bus driver from York County accused of impaired driving. In 2010, a Saco school bus driver pleaded guilty to one count of drunken driving and two counts of endangering a child’s welfare. In December 2009, the driver was arrested after being removed from a bus as she was about to drive dozens of Saco Middle School students home. She was charged with drunken driving again after authorities learned that she had driven herself home from the police station after telling police she had arranged a ride.