ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Navajo Nation school bus driver who took dozens of children on a drunken ride, crashing multiple times, last September has been sentenced to 18 months in prison.
According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Duane Skeet, 49, of Chichiltah was sentenced in federal court Wednesday. Skeet pleaded guilty to felony child abuse for endangering the lives of 25 school children, ranging in age from 5 to 12 years old.
None of the children were injured during the ride.
“We are grateful for the immediate response by McKinley County Sheriff’s Office, the New Mexico State Police and certainly our officers who were able to stop this individual right away,” said Jesse Delmar, director of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety. “This should never have happened, we as a people value the well-being and safety of our children.”
The incident happened Sept. 24 when Skeet drank before clocking in as a school bus driver at Chi Chi Tah Jones Ranch School in Vanderwagen.
Authorities say the ride went on for almost an hour, covering 25 miles and eight stops, with children being thrown back and forth inside of the bus at times.
“Due to Skeet’s intoxicated state, the school bus swerved from side to side on the roadway,” the release states. “Skeet continued driving the school bus in a damaged condition after hitting an embankment; almost flipped the bus while taking a sharp turn at a high rate of speed; and almost drove off a bridge near a canyon.”
A parent of one of the children eventually chased the school bus down and detained Skeet until authorities arrived.