According to court documents, the incident happened on December 15, 2023, and Matthew Dudek was taken into custody the same day.
NORTHAMPTON TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A former Bucks County school bus driver is facing DUI and child endangerment charges after police say he drove a school bus impaired with children on board.
According to court documents, the incident happened on December 15, 2023, and 35-year-old Matthew Dudek was taken into custody the same day.
After submitting to a breathalyzer test, Dudek's blood alcohol content level was found to be nearly three times the legal limit. According to court documents, Dudek confessed to drinking wine the night before and taking shots of vodka the next morning before work.
Parents like Kara Higgins are shocked by the allegations.
"It is shocking because they're a bus driver. They're there to keep your kid safe and they're clearly not their priority," said Higgins of Northampton Township.
Court documents say Dudek was involved in a hit-and-run crash around 2:27 p.m. in Newtown Township before reporting to work as a school bus driver in the Council Rock School District.
According to investigators, 12 students boarded Dudek's bus at Holland Middle School around 3 p.m. All students got home safely, but police say one student reported to her parents that she believed her bus driver was impaired.
The parents notified Durham Schools Services, which contracts transportation services with Council Rock Schools, who notified Richboro Elementary where Dudek was headed next.
"Principal Jordan made contact with Dudek who was still in the driver seat of the bus; she observed on the school bus floor what appeared to be vomit. She asked Dudek about it and he did not respond. She told Dudek that he was not to leave the property and that another bus was coming. Dudek again did not respond but did close the door and drove away without anyone else on the bus," the court document alleges.
Dudek returned to the Durham School Services bus yard on Swamp Road where an employee contacted police reporting Dudek smelled like marijuana. In the course of their investigation, officers were able to link Dudek to the earlier hit-and-run crash and DUI.
"We put our children in the trust of the school employees, obviously we want to make sure that we're hiring the correct personnel to take care of our students," said Brittany Bressler, of Richboro Township, who is a soon-to-be parent and also a teacher.
A statement issued to all Council Rock families from Durham School Services on February 2, 2024, said Dudeck passed a rigorous background check screening and met all federal, state, and Durham School Services requirements for employment.
When the incident first occurred, Durham Schools Services also issued the following communication specifically to families of students assigned to Dudek's bus:
"We are aware of a concerning and unacceptable situation involving one of our employees. Based on the information we received from the authorities, the individual has been removed from service. We are cooperating fully with the authorities and are committed to keeping the district updated with further developments.
Durham prides itself on its safety policies and culture, and the safety of the students we transport is our priority. This individual met all federal, state, and company screening requirements, which include motor vehicle records checks, criminal background checks, pre-employment drug screening, as well as Department of Transportation and state medical checks.
Today's events are unacceptable, and when we became aware of this situation, we took swift action by notifying local authorities. The authorities arrived quickly, and we are thankful for their prompt actions to remove the driver from service. Durham has launched an immediate investigation to fully understand the course of action and to prevent such a situation from occurring again."
While the incident occurred on December 15th, 2023, formal charges were not brought against Dudek until January 23rd, 2024. Below is the full statement issued by Durham School Services to all Council Rock School District families on February 2nd.
We have recently been notified that a former Durham School Services driver has been charged with serious crimes, including driving under the influence and endangering the welfare of children. We are appalled at the alleged criminal conduct carried out by our former driver and can confirm that this driver's employment was promptly terminated immediately following the incident in question.
We recognize the gravity of the situation and are fully cooperating with local authorities. We sincerely apologize for the concern and distress this situation has caused to students, parents, and the entire Council Rock community. Further, we have thoroughly investigated this incident and continue to improve our systems and procedures to help make sure something like this never happens again in the Council Rock community.
At Durham School Services, safety is our priority. Before a potential candidate is offered a job opportunity with our company, they must pass a rigorous background check screening. The driver in question met all federal, state, and company screening requirements, which include motor vehicle records checks, criminal background checks, pre-employment drug screening, as well as Department of Transportation and state medical checks. We also have a robust driver training program and can confirm that this driver satisfied all federal, state, and company training requirements.
Notwithstanding the above, this driver allegedly committed criminal conduct that is reprehensible and totally unacceptable. Durham School Services is unwavering in its commitment to the Council Rock School District community and the safety and welfare of the students we transport. We pledge to work tirelessly to help safeguard every student on every bus, every single day."
According to Newtown Township police, the case is awaiting a preliminary hearing. Action News inquired further with Newtown Township police, but we did not hear back Monday.
According to an affidavit, officers were able to obtain video from onboard the school bus that shows Dudek picking up and dropping off students, vomiting on the bus and using tissues to clean it up. Video also reportedly shows Dudek arriving back at the bus yard, unsteady on his feet while checking the bus before exiting.
On Monday, February 5, the Council Rock School District issued the following statement to Council Rock School District families:
"As a follow up to the email you received from Durham School Services on Friday, February 2, 2024, we are sharing an update with the Council Rock community with additional information. Council Rock contracts with Durham School Services to provide bus transportation and driver services. The December 15, 2023 incident involved a Holland Middle School bus route with a Durham School Services-employed bus driver.
All students of the HMS bus route on December 15 were transported without injury, and parents of students were notified promptly.
Due to the ongoing criminal case we are not permitted to disclose details of the incident publicly. However, the District has taken swift action with Durham School Services to review the incident and ensure their safety and driver accountability protocols are enforced.
Durham School Services has terminated the bus driver's employment. Council Rock has taken every measure to hold Durham School Services accountable for the highest level of safety possible in every aspect of transporting Council Rock students. Our expectation is that Durham School Services finds this incident as wholly unacceptable as we do in Council Rock.
The Council Rock School District maintains student safety as its top priority. We continue to require Durham School Services to provide nothing less than complete and exceptional safe bus service for our students."
Concerning the hit-and-run fender bender earlier in the day, Dudek allegedly told police he didn't remember it happening. The people in the other car were not injured.