WESTMINSTER, Colo. - A school bus driver with the Adams 12 School District admitted Monday that he was drunk when he drove a busload of football players home from a game.
Burton Carpenter, 57, pleaded guilty to one count of DUI and one count of knowing or reckless child abuse.
Carpenter was arrested Sept. 21 with a blood alcohol content of .213.
He was transporting members of the Mountain Range High School freshman football team from a game at Prairie View High School in Brighton when his bus hit a parked vehicle as he was entering the parking lot at Mountain Range.
There were 37 students and four adults on the bus.
No injuries were reported.
Witnesses told police of a frightening 10-mile, post-game return trip from Prairie View High School to Mountain Range High School.
Coach Keith Chavez said Carpenter failed to stop at railroad crossing at on 120th Avenue, almost hit a vehicle while changing lanes and needed to be directed to the Mountain Range parking lot, according to an arrest affidavit.
Coach Bryan McClure said the bus driver was straddling both lanes of traffic for most of trip home. A couple in a car following the bus also said Carpenter was driving erratically.
A police officer investigating the bus crash with the pickup truck wrote that he could smell alcohol "emanating from the bus" when he stepped onboard the bus. The officer said Carpenter, who was still sitting in the driver's seat, had slurred speech and bloodshot eyes.
When the officer asked the bus driver what happened, Carpenter replied, he had "drank a little bit." When the officer asked what he'd been drinking, the driving said, "a little vodka this morning," according to the affidavit.
A witness told police that Carpenter admitted he'd been drinking vodka from a 32-ounce Gatorade bottle.
Carpenter was so unstable on his feet, when he tried to exit the bus he stumbled down the stairs, catching himself on the side of the bus, the officer wrote in the affidavit.
The officer wrote that Carpenter was unable to perform a voluntary roadside sobriety test and the officer stopped it for the man's safety.
Carpenter was charged with DUI, DUI per se, 37 counts of child abuse, five counts of reckless endangerment, careless driving, failing to drive in a single lane and failing to stop a school bus at a railroad crossing.
Under a plea agreement, the single child abuse count to which Carpenter pleaded guilty names each of the child victims.
Sentencing is set for Friday afternoon in Adams County Court.
Carpenter remains in custody on a $4,000 bond.
Carpenter had worked for the district since July 2012, according to Adams 12 spokeswoman Melissa Hoelting.
He was suspended by the district after his arrest and was fired on Oct. 9.
The real question is why Adams 12 officials hired Carpenter in July 2012 to be a bus driver?
Carpenter was forced to surrender his registered nursing license in June. A State Board of Nursing investigation found in early 2012 he'd written in patients' "narcotics control" charts that he'd given painkiller medications to 10 patients at Broomfield Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, but all the patients denied requesting or receiving pain medications.
Carpenter was fired from the nursing facility in April 2012 and admitted to state investigators "that he has a substance use disorder," according to the nursing board's license relinquishment order. A 2011 state investigation at a Boulder nursing home raised questions about whether Carpenter had falsified records about giving a painkiller to a patient there.
Adams 12 spokesman Joe Ferdani said the district did a background check on Carpenter using local, state and federal law enforcement databases, and "there was nothing in the backgrounds checks that would preclude him from employment."