UPDATE: More details on bus driver taking local kids on field trip arrested for OWI

Schoolcraft Police Department

UPDATE: NAPPANEE, Ind. -- More details have emerged in the case of the charter bus driver who was charged with an OWI while transporting local high school kids to a theater show in Grand Rapids last week.

The Schoolcraft Police Department has released the official report which states that the head chaperone on the trip noticed bus driver John Schmidt was driving erratically, unable to stay in his lane, hitting two large traffic cones without noticing, and driving 80 mph in a 55-mph zone.

The chaperone said Schmidt's comments became more and more suspicious when he began talking about his military time in Iraq. He allegedly asked the chaperone to come flying with him, telling him he loved him and that they should hang out at Schmidt's house. 

According to the report, another chaperone faked an illness to get Schmidt to pull into a local McDonald's.

Once at the McDonald's, the main chaperone and another parent walked into the restaurant and called the bus company to report the driver. The main chaperone then walked back out to the bus where the other chaperones, the kids, and Schmidt were waiting. 

According to the main chaperone, "The students informed me that when I went into the McDonald's, John exited the bus, walked around the carwash building and urinated in plain view of all the passengers."

That is when the main chaperone instructed all the parents and kids to get off the bus and into the McDonald's.

While Schmidt was on the phone with the bus company who hired him, the main chaperone was able to grab a large Styrofoam cup that Schmidt was drinking from during the trip. When he opened the lid, he was, "met with a strong odor of cinnamon and alcohol. 

The manager of the McDonald's told police the kids from the bus came into the restaurant, visibly upset with some crying, with the group's chaperone following shortly after. The group was trying to avoid contact with Schmidt during this time.

The manager said Schmidt entered the restaurant to confront the chaperone who took his cup but was escorted outside by another McDonald's employee.

The police report goes on to state authorities attempted to have Schmidt complete a sobriety test, with him telling police multiple times, "It's not going to happen."

Schmidt was taken to the hospital for chemical tests, at which point he decided to cooperate with the tests and told police he had poured 20 ounces of Fireball Whiskey into his cup before starting to drive, according to the official report.

Police took photos of the cup, and the report states there were only a few ounces of whiskey left.

the transportation company that Scmidt was driving for sent a replacement driver to transport the school group.

ORIGINAL STORY: A local high school choir group was traveling on a charter bus to Grand Rapids for an end-of-the-year trip to see a production of the musical Wicked when some people on the bus started to suspect the driver might be drunk.

School officials on the bus convinced the driver to stop at a McDonalds in Schoolcraft, and that is when police became involved.

According to Schoolcraft police, they were called for a disturbance at the McDonald's in Schoolcraft at 4:23 p.m. on Sunday.

A responding officer was flagged down by an adult passenger on the bus at the McDonald's and was told that the bus driver was intoxicated.

After a brief investigation, the driver, John Schmidt, was arrested for operating while intoxicated.

Police say there are additional charges pending.

Administrators with Wa-Nee Community Schools sent a letter to parents informing them of the incident. 

"On Sunday, May 26, 2024, our choir students, under the direction of Mr. Jeff Cramer, departed on a private charter bus for their trip," the letter reads. "During the journey, Mr. Cramer, along with fellow NWHS teacher, Mrs. Mindi Slone, became concerned about the driver's behavior. Acting on their instincts, they spoke with the driver and convinced him to safely pull over the charter bus at a fast-food restaurant."

The letter continues saying that Schmidt's behavior at the McDonald's was erratic and that is when officials decided to call the police, who made the arrest.

"After notifying the charter bus company, a second bus was dispatched, and our students and staff were safely returned home. We are grateful for the decisive actions of Mr. Cramer and Mrs. Slone, who ensured the safety of our students throughout this incident," the letter says.

The school says it is actively collaborating with law enforcement and all relevant organizations to ensure that any lost funds are recovered and returned.

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