By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
A Leander ISD bus driver was arrested and charged with a DWI Thursday afternoon while taking 20 to 30 children home on bus #336 from River Ridge Elementary in Steiner Ranch.
Kathy Loraine Legrand, 61, was charged with driving while intoxicated with child passengers, a state jail felony, according to an arrest affidavit. Legrand said she had Xanax before driving the bus. Blood tests were pending at the time of this report.
Jail records show that Legrand was booked at the Travis County Jail on Thursday night with bail set at $35,000. She was released on Friday.
A star jail felony is punished by 6 months to two years in a state jail and up to a $10,000.00 fine.
The arrest happened off of Merlene Drive off of S. Quinlan Park Road before 4 p.m. on October 16 after Legrand destroyed a mailbox and hit tree branches.
The bus was occupied by a mix of kindergarten to fifth grade students. No children were injured, but another bus was brought in to take the remaining students home.
“We immediately terminated (Legrand) and cooperated with the police and authorities and provided police with information,” said Veronica Sopher, a spokesperson for the district.
“We made phone calls to parents who had students involved,” Sopher said. RRE had additional counselors and resources available at the school on Friday in case there was concern or stress surrounding the situation.
A homeowner on Merlene Drive called the Travis County Sheriff’s Office to report the bus driver hitting a mailbox.
A father with a fifth grade daughter said she called him while on the bus. “She said the bus driver started driving erratically and running into various things,” Kirk Young reported.
The bus stopped in the turn lane at N. Quinlan Park Road and Horseback Hollow. A school representative had managed to have the bus driver stop there. The school representative stayed with the bus.
School representatives said that Legrand would not respond to their transportation dispatchers when called. The bus radio was found to be functional and in working order to include audio.
When Legrand was asked what had happened to the children on her bus she replied she completed her route and all were dropped off. Later, she asked what happened to the children.
Legrand told the deputy she collided with trees and a mailbox while operating the bus. The right front of the bus was damaged consistent with what would occur from striking a mailbox with large white marks stretched across the bumper. The rear view mirror was hanging from the side of the bus. The sides of the bus were scratched consistent with what occurs when tree branches/limbs are drove through.
Legrand attributed the damage to a collision prior to the date of this incident, but school representatives said the bus would not be allowed to be operated in such a condition.
Travis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jeremy Moehnke observed Legrand was stumbling while she exited and re-entered the bus.
Legrand’s movements and responses were peculiar, according to the affidavit. “Legrand was having trouble concentrating. I would ask questions that would require a single answer such as a number but she would elaborate into a complete history. She lost her footing by simply transitioning from walking on grass to mulch.”
Legrand was asked about the use of any alcoholic beverages or medications. She said she had consumed beer the previous day during the nighttime and had taken prescription substances on Thursday. Legrand told the deputy she takes nine different medications throughout the day; however this number was not consistent and increased and decreased as she named the medications. Some of the medications were identified as anti-depressants and substances intended to reduce pain.
Legrand said she had not had a drink that day but that she had taken some medications that “help her sleep” before driving the bus, according to the affidavit. When asked if she had taken anything with her medication, Legrand said Xanax and a cinnamon bun, the affidavit says.
The deputy conducted the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Legrand’s pupils, both eyes, were constricted to the size of ball point pen tips. The deputy recognized the constricted pupils as that which occurs when a person is under the influence of some substance. He observed some peculiar eye movement but not consistent with what is observed when alcohol is introduced into the system.
Deputy Moehnke also conducted the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. Legrand would not keep balance, started too soon, stepped off line, did not touch heel to toe, took wrong number of steps, and turned improperly. This is six out of a total of eight indicators.
During the one leg stand test, Legrand was almost fell to the ground twice.
According to the affidavit, Legrand was intoxicated and not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body.
Sopher said LISD goes through a rigorous process in hiring bus drivers and it follows all of the state requirements.
Legrand had a good standing driving record or would not have been with LISD, Sopher said. She had been driving bus for the district for five years.
One reader of the report on Facebook suggested weekly random drug tests should be done and background checks every six months “to weed out stuff like this.”