Rush City bus driver driving bus full of kids charged with DWI

A Rush City school bus driver accused of driving a bus full of kids while impaired has been charged with two counts of DWI in Chisago County.

Kara Jean Ffrench made her first court appearance on Friday, where unconditional bail was set at $12,000, and bail with a list of conditions, including not drinking or possessing alcohol or transporting kids under the age of 16, was set at $4,000. Her next appearance is set for May 15.

On Thursday morning, the Chisago Co. Sheriff’s Office responded to Game Avenue in Rush City for a school bus that had gone off the road. According to law enforcement at the scene, the bus had driven off a driveway area and into the edge of a cornfield, and a basketball pole and hoop were against the back of the bus, preventing the bus from being able to back up.

When authorities arrived, the complaint states that law enforcement found Ffrench sitting in the driver’s seat of the school bus, which was still running. A sergeant with the sheriff’s office could reportedly smell a “moderate odor of alcoholic beverage” while standing in the stairway of the bus.

A replacement bus came to pick up the 45 children on the bus, none of whom were injured. The charges say that two-thirds of the students were elementary-aged kids and the remaining students were high schoolers.

Ffrench told authorities that the bus got stuck because her foot did not find the brake and denied drinking any alcohol since the prior week, the complaint says.

Ffrench had taken a plastic water bottle and insulated coffee mug off the bus with her, and the complaint notes that law enforcement thought the coffee smelled like it had an alcoholic beverage added to it.

She agreed to take a field sobriety test, part of which she was unable to complete. She then willingly took a preliminary breath test, which gave a reading of 0.199. Ffrench was then placed under arrest.

Nearly two hours later, at the Chisago County Jail, Ffrench took another breath test with a reading of 0.17, according to court records.