A party bus driver had a blood-alcohol content nearly three times the legal limit when he took a vehicle full of teens to their prom, DuPage County sheriff’s officials said this afternoon.
One passenger described a perilous ride that included driving over medians, cutting off other vehicles and veering into a ditch while en route from Plainfield to Abbington Banquets in Glen Ellyn for the Oswego East High School prom Saturday.
Richard L. Madison, 54, of Palos Hills was charged with DUI and reckless conduct, DuPage County state’s attorney spokesman Paul Darrah said. Madison’s blood-alcohol content measured at 0.22, authorities said.
Oswego East High School senior Tyler Bower said he was one of 24 students on the party bus Saturday. He said Madison showed up late to pick up the students in Plainfield and had to borrow a phone so he could map out how to get to the prom.
As the bus made its way out of the Grande Park subdivision, Madison drove over a median twice and had to back up, Bower said.
“That’s when we went into the ditch,” he said.
The ditch was shallow and Madison was able to drive out of it, Bower said, but the teen hit his head “really hard” in the process.
“Everybody was leaning; everyone was sitting down holding onto the railings,” Bower said. “We had no idea what was going on.”
As Madison prepared to enter U.S. Route 30, things got hairy again, Bower said.
Route 30 is dicey in general, Bower said, and you have to watch for approaching cars.
“We were checking, and we’re like, ‘don’t go, there’s five cars coming,’” Bower said, “and he just went. All the cars were honking. They had to slam on their brakes. He cut off everybody.”
The rest of the ride was peppered with “hard stops,” Bower said.
“Every time he hit the brakes, everyone was moving forward and falling down,” Bower said.
When the bus arrived at the prom, Bower said he told a police officer working the prom about the crazy ride.
Oswego Police Chief Dwight Baird said his officers at the prom were alerted to Madison’s erratic driving from parents of teens on the bus.
The teens went on to enjoy their prom but had to get rides home from parents, Bower said.
DuPage County sheriff’s deputies responded to the prom site about 7 p.m., spokeswoman Dawn Domrose said. Madison was arrested and released about 11:30 p.m. Saturday after paying $100 on a $3,000 bond, Domrose said.
The party bus was operated by Limos Alive Party Bus, the sheriff’s office said. Limos Alive Party Bus representatives said they had no comment this afternoon.
Casey Toner and Matt McKinney of the Chicago Sun-Times were able to get a comment from the driver, who denied being drunk:
Madison said his bosses at Limos Alive, had known the vehicle needed its wheels realigned because the bus drivers “write it up every day.”
“You know, if I was guilty, I would still be in jail,” said Madison, who posted bail on Saturday night. “That’s my thought. I would not be at home right now.”
But an official of Limos Alive, who asked not to be identified on the advice of the company’s lawyers, said the bus driven by Madison had been inspected and nothing was wrong with it.
Earlier Sunday, Limos Alive salesman Dave Kebbie said the company fired Madison after learning about the DUI charge.
Kebbie said all employees are routinely drug-tested and the company does not hire drivers with driving infractions during the past two years. Limos Alive contacted the parents of the teens and gave them full refunds and gift certificates for free limousine rentals, he said.
“We try to go above and beyond,” Kebbie said. “We don’t expect anything like this to happen.”