Photo: Adobe Stock

The school bus driver arrested by Riverhead Police July 13 after crashing the bus with children on board, had a blood alcohol content of .30% — more than three and one-half times the legal limit, according to charges handed down by a Suffolk County grand jury.

The indictment charges Diane Juergens, 61, of Ridge, 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.

Suffolk District Attorney Tim Sini announced the indictment yesterday at Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverhead, where Juergens was arraigned by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Braslow. She 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, Sini said.

Juergens arrived at Baiting Hollow Scout Camp on July 13 at approximately 4:25 p.m. in a full-sized school bus to transport campers home, according to the indictment. The bus was boarded by 10 children and one teenage camp counselor before Juergens pulled out of the camp and onto Sound Avenue. 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, according to a statement issued by the district attorney. Juergens then continued east on Sound Avenue when she allegedly struck a car that was also traveling in the east bound lane, causing damage to that vehicle, the prosecutor said.

“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,” 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,” Sini said.

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

Editor’s note: A criminal charge is an accusation. A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

The survival of local journalism depends on your support.
We are a small family-owned operation. You rely on us to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Just a few dollars can help us continue to bring this important service to our community.
Support RiverheadLOCAL today.

Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.