A North County Transit District bus driver has been charged with endangering passengers in Encinitas and Carlsbad by driving drunk.
Contract driver David Joseph Costello was arrested June 1 after a bus rider called 911 to report he appeared to be intoxicated. Sheriff's Sgt. Thomas Yancey says the 41-year-old driver failed a series of sobriety tests.
Prosecutor Dan Owens says Costello was charged Tuesday with two counts of misdemeanor drunken driving, a misdemeanor charge of commercial driver DUI and two misdemeanor counts of public intoxication from unrelated incidents on April 2 and April 4.
When the bus driver was stopped and given a field sobriety test, one of the passengers took pictures.
It's not every day that bus riders see their driver arrested for driving under the influence but on this day, San Diego County Sheriff's Deputy Brenda Wiebe responded to a 911 call from a rider, reporting the driver was making odd stops and appeared intoxicated.
Emily Knudsen was riding the bus on Route 309, which carries passengers between Oceanside and Encinitas along El Camino Real, heading to her job at BevMo in Encinitas. This trip, though, was weirder than usual for the young Carlsbad woman.
"I'm used to seeing crazies on the bus all the time, and people who are drunk or weird," Knudsen said Wednesday. "But, no, the bus drivers -- usually they're pretty normal."
Deputy Wiebe eventually stopped the North County Transit District bus and arrested Costello on suspicion of driving a commercial vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
Costello has a blood alcohol level of .25 at the time of his arrest, Wiebe said. That's more than six times the legal limit of .04 for commercial drivers.
"I noticed his eyes were red, droopy his speech was slurred, his movements were slow," said Wiebe.
There were eight passengers on the bus when it was pulled over in the 450 block of Encinitas Boulevard.
The driver had been acting odd and making unscheduled stops, Knudsen said. At one point, it appeared that the driver stopped the bus to go outside to urinate.
"He got out of the bus and went through bushes, and down into a ravine by a lagoon for a couple of minutes, and then came back up and was pushing the bushes out of the way, and I just assumed he'd gone down to use the bathroom," Knudsen said.
The trip to work usually takes about 35 to 40 minutes, but it was was closer to an hour. Knudsen had had enough; when she got off at her stop, she went to work and called 911.
Costello's parents, who live in El Cajon, said that he lives in Oceanside and has had trouble with alcohol off and on for several years.
First Transit, the company that operates the route under contract with the district, employed the driver.
"This is a very serious matter.... NCTD and our contractors view safety as our top priority, “said NCTD Executive Director Matt Tucker. “A review of our safety record supports our contractors are required by the Federal Transit Administration to maintain a rigorous drug and alcohol testing policy and procedures. These procedures are audited independently by federal and state agencies.”
O'Connor was shocked by the arrest.
"In my career, this is the first time we've had a bus driver with such responsibility, driving passengers around, stopped and arrested for driving under the influence," O'Connor said.
Roxanne Georginn, the passenger who took the images of Costello's field sobriety test, discussed his drinking problem with Costello's replacement driver.
"He said that he knew him and had gone through training with him, and that he had a problem unfortunately he didn't realize it had gotten this far," Georginn said Wednesday.
Costello's father said he believed his son is still being held at the Vista Detention Facility.
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