Sunday, August 31, 2008

Drunk bus driver

Hawaii -- Police arrested a Honolulu city bus driver on Thursday night on charges he allegedly drove the bus while drunk with passengers on board. Searle Pestana, 61, has been a driver with TheBus for 36 years. He has two prior drunken driving convictions -- one in 2000 and another in 2002.

There were seven people on board the bus when Searle Pestana was on his final run near the end of his shift in Waimanalo. Honolulu police received a call about a bus driver who was driving erratically and had sideswiped a tree.

It was a concerned bus passenger who called 911 at about 8 p.m. Police pulled over Pestana in a parking lot, performed a sobriety test and arrested him.

Pestana blew 0.18 on his blood-alcohol test. That is more than twice the legal limit. He also allegedly had an open container of alcohol on board the bus when police pulled him over.

"I'm not only surprised, I'm shocked," Oahu Transit Services President Roger Morton said. OTS runs the city's bus system. Morton said the company was aware of Pestana's 2002 DUI conviction, but allowed him to drive again after he successfully completed rehab.

"Both in terms of customer contact and safety and showing up for work and attendance and all of those things, he's a good employee," Morton said. Morton said his company performs random drug tests on employees. Drivers are subjected to inspection before starting their shift, he said.

Just how long Pestana had been drinking while behind the wheel is unclear.

"Public safety is our first concern. We take drugs and alcohol very seriously. We don't tolerate their use in the workplace," Morton said.

OTS suspended Pestana without pay. He is scheduled to appear in District Court on Sept. 26.

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