Former Lamers bus driver pleads not guilty to OWI
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A former Lamers bus driver who admitted to drinking beer while Green Bay elementary students were on a field trip pled not guilty Tuesday.
70-year-old James Martin Nelson was charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence, first offense, with a minor child present.
A final pre-trial conference is scheduled for May 31.
Officer Fischer and K9 Officer Conley arrived to Lincoln Elementary School after the bus returned where they spoke to Nelson.
Nelson admitted he had been drinking, according to the complaint. He said he drank two beers while in Madison on an empty school bus around noon. Around 1 p.m., he drove the bus to transport the students back to Green Bay.
Officer Conley saw four empty Budweiser cans in a cooler on the bus. Officer Fischer noticed Nelson had watery eyes.
Officers performed a Standardized Field Sobriety Test inside Lincoln Elementary School.
Officers also administered a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT). Nelson blew a .056 and was not initially arrested. Notably, the legal level for operating a CDL vehicle is .04. After consultation with a sergeant, Nelson was arrested with probable cause he operated a commercial motor vehicle with a BAC of .04 or more with passengers under 16-years-old.
One teacher told officers they noticed Nelson strike a curb while making a right turn. Multiple teachers and chaperones noticed the bus drifting to the point of hitting rumble strips approximately five times between Madison and Green Bay.
A student picked up a beer can near Beaver Dam. A teacher spoke with the bus driver and did not notice any signs of impairment, but did see a cooler tipped over beneath the driver’s seat. The lid was open. The teacher saw four cans in koozies that resembled Budweiser that appeared to be empty. The Green Bay Public Schools security director reported the cooler said “Nelson” on it.
The teacher asked the bus driver for garbage bags and began cleaning up the bus. While cleaning up, the teacher confirmed one can was an empty “Tall Boy” Budweiser.
School district staff reached out to Lamers Bus Line after teachers informed them of the situation.
Lamers said the bus was used as a party bus the previous weekend. The Green Bay security director did not think the cans were leftover from when the bus was used as a party bus, as there were cold ice packs inside.
Lamers has a zero-tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol and the driver has been fired.
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