SunVan driver fired

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A SunVan driver whose breathalyzer results showed a blood alcohol level of .261 has been terminated, according to Michele Joseph, marketing director for SunVan.

48 year old Michael Ross was fired following an internal investigation into an incident which happened in front of the Easter Seals offices on East Broadway on July 15th.

According to a police report, TPD was called when a worker became concerned when he smelled alcohol on Ross's breath and watched as Ross was not able to strap three special needs, wheelchair bound adults into the van.

According to the police report, the witness was concerned Ross was going to drive off with the three special needs adults in the back.

Ross was sitting in the driver's seat with the engine running.

A SunVan supervisor was called by Easter Seals.

According to the police report, he was sitting in the passenger seat.

According to the witness, it appeared the supervisor was going to let Ross drive the van to see if he was okay.

But Ross told News 13,"I don't recall that."

He said it's protocol to keep the engine running to insure the passengers in the van stay cool.

Joseph says "the tapes showed that the supervisor did follow proper procedure."

She says the van never went anywhere "and it supported everything that we found once the determination was made to terminate the driver."

She said every SunVan is equipped with a camera but the video is only given to the police.

She did call the incident unfortunate and "we really regret than this particular incident did happen."

Easter Seals, which initially denied involvement, responded with a statement on Monday afternoon.

We posted the entire statement.

On Monday, July 15, at approximately 4:40 p.m., a SunVan driver arrived to pick up three clients from Easter Seals Blake Foundation's (ESBF) Adult Day Program to transport them to their homes. The van was more than an hour late in arriving at ESBF.

ESBF staff watched the driver load the clients, each of whom is in a wheelchair, into the SunVan vehicle. They observed that the driver was physically awkward and that he smelled of alcohol. In this situation ESBF's procedures require that staff's first response is to ensure the safety of the clients and then notify appropriate parties.

.      ESBF staff immediately called SunVan to report the apparently impaired driver and to obtain a new driver for the clients.

·      Staff then called his Supervisor to report the incident, who advised him to wait for the SunVan supervisor and not let the apparently impaired driver to leave the scene.

·      The clients' families/guardians were then called, since the clients were already quite late and it was clear that their arrival at home was going to be even further delayed.

One of the parents called 911 and reported the apparently impaired driver. The police arrived at the scene approximately 10 minutes thereafter and conducted the investigation and subsequent arrest of the driver.

The SunVan supervisor arrived on site about 20 minutes after staff first notified SunVan.  He dealt with the apparently impaired driver.  After police arrived and interviewed him, a new driver drove the ESBF clients home in the SunVan, where they were already seated.

During this whole time, ESBF staff remained with the clients in the SunVan to ensure their safety and comfort, and to make sure that the impaired driver would not be able to leave the scene. The clients remained safely in the air-conditioned van awaiting the replacement driver.

When all the clients were driven off in the SunVan with the new driver or picked up by their parents, staff then continued with incident procedures, writing up a formal Incident Report.

Ema Kammeyer


Easter Seals Blake Foundation

July 22, 2013

In a telephone conversation, Ross told News 13, "I am sorry this happened."

He went on to say "I'm embarrassed by this." and "I did not mean to put anyone in danger."

Ross says he was drinking all weekend but "I did not drink on the job."

He said he quit drinking by about 3 a.m. Monday morning.

He has a court date on July 29th.

Right now, he is facing a misdemeanor DUI charge but it will be up to the city attorney to determine whether there will be additional charges.

One attorney we talked to this afternoon said he was surprised endangerment charges would not be automatic considering the high BAC level.

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