Drunk school bus driver abandoned summer camp kids on bus after causing two crashes

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Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini today announced the indictment of a bus driver for Leandra’s Law and other offenses for allegedly driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of two crashes while driving a school bus of children home from a Scout camp.

Diane Juergens, 61, of Ridge, is charged with Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated, as a class D felony; two counts of Driving While Intoxicated, as a class E felony; 20 counts of Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated (Leandra’s Law), a class E felony; three counts of Driving While Intoxicated, as unclassified misdemeanors; 10 counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child, a class A misdemeanor; and two counts of Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Property Damage, a violation.

“This defendant chose to get behind the wheel of that bus and endanger the lives of each and every one of the children on board,” District Attorney Sini said. “Those of us who are parents or grandparents entrust people every day with our children – whether it’s at school, at camp, at church – and bus drivers are among those with whom we place the greatest amount of trust. This defendant violated that trust. It is a miracle that none of the children were physically injured by her reckless actions, but their safety does not excuse her decision to drive while intoxicated with those kids in her care.”

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At approximately 4:25 p.m. on July 13, Juergens arrived at Baiting Hollow Scout Camp, located at 1774 Sound Ave. in Calverton, in a full-sized school bus to transport campers home. The bus was boarded by 10 children and one teenage camp counselor before Juergens pulled out of the camp and onto Sound Ave. The counselor alerted Juergens that she failed to stop at a second location to pick up additional campers, at which time Juergens attempted to make a U-turn and struck a stone pillar, causing damage. Juergens then continued east on Sound Ave. when she allegedly struck a car that was also traveling in the east bound lane, causing damage to that vehicle.

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Juergens was instructed by camp officials via the counselor to remain at her location; however, she continued to drive east on Sound Ave. until she arrived at the original location where she picked up the campers who were on the bus. The campers and counselor, who were not injured, were evacuated from the bus.

Juergens was arrested by the Riverhead Town Police Department and consented to a chemical blood test, which revealed a blood alcohol content of .30%.

Juergens was arraigned on the indictment today by Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Stephen Braslow and was released on supervised release with GPS monitoring and alcohol and narcotics conditions. She is being represented by the Legal Aid Society and is due back in court on Sept. 15.

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If convicted of the top count, Juergens faces a maximum sentence of two and one-third to seven years in prison.