Prosecutors investigating driver’s actions following school bus rollover near Ramstein Air Base
Stars and Stripes March 14, 2023
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Charges were pending Tuesday against the school bus driver who was arrested last week on suspicion of drunken driving after the bus flipped over an embankment along a rural road near Ramstein Air Base, leaving the students to break a back window and free themselves.
“Currently, we are investigating the incident from all conceivable angles,” Kaiserslautern lead prosecutor Udo Gehring said. “We are not limited to a certain accusation.”
The 60-year-old driver, whose name wasn’t disclosed in accordance with German privacy rules, was released from custody following Friday’s rollover.
Police tested his blood alcohol level and the results should be available to prosecutors soon, law enforcement officials said.
Students from the Defense Department’s Kaiserslautern elementary, middle and high schools who were aboard the bus at the time said the driver had been acting erratically.
The rollover happened just before 4 p.m. on District Road 19 between Weilerbach and Erzenhausen.
At one point, "the driver stopped in the middle of the road, stood up and said something while pounding his chest and crying," Bryan Muniz-Diaz, 17, said Friday. "His face was all red. He then kept on driving."
Beyond investigating the crash, prosecutors will have to determine whether the driver’s actions afterward constituted a crime.
Video shared on Facebook on Monday shows a group, including first responders, surrounding a person on a field a few hundred yards away from the wreckage.
Students and parents who were gathered at the Weilerbach firehouse Friday said the driver had tried to flee. But a police statement Monday said he may have been running around the field in shock.
“At the moment, everything revolves around determining the complete circumstances, including his behavior after the accident,” Gehring said. “But we expect to be able to report an update soon.”
German police said the driver is under investigation on suspicion of endangering road traffic and doing bodily harm to passengers. There were 16 students aboard the contracted bus, said Stephen Smith, a Department of Defense Education Activity-Europe spokesman.
Bus service has resumed on the K-204 route with a second adult on board for now “to provide added reassurance,” Louis D'Angelo, DODEA-Europe East District chief of staff, said in a letter to parents Tuesday.
Counseling is also available to those who need it, the letter said.
“This incident is completely unacceptable and we will continue to work with our contractors to ensure this does not happen again,” D’Angelo wrote.
The contractor is cooperating with both DODEA and investigators, D'Angelo added.
A spokesman for bus operator Schary Reisen, Lukas Schary, said on Tuesday that the crash was “deeply regrettable, and we will do everything in our power to fully clarify what happened that day.
“We are currently unable to answer questions … until we ourselves are fully aware of the sequence of events.”