A Red Deer school bus driver has been sentenced to 45 days in jail following a guilty plea to operating a motor vehicle over 80mg after an incident this past June.
Shelly Joy Kolodychuk, 42, of Red Deer was also charged with impaired operation of a motor vehicle, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and failing to remain at the scene of a collision. She pleaded guilty to the one charge.
In an Agreed Statement of Facts previously read, court heard that on June 4th at 4 p.m., Kurt Stenberg, a resident of Vanier Woods, observed a school bus hit a tree and a stop sign in the neighbourhood. He then observed the bus, which was carrying 18 children from École Barrie Wilson School, drive on the sidewalk for a few metres before swerving back on the road. The bus eventually came to a stop.
He then called 9-1-1.
The Agreed Statement of Facts indicated when RCMP arrived, Kolodychuk had a slight smell of alcohol on her and her speech was slightly slurred. She was also crying.
RCMP found a drink container near the driver’s seat that appeared to contain alcohol. Kolodychuk was arrested and taken to the detachment where two breath samples were administered. The Agreed Statement of Facts stated Kolodychuk blew 200mg – two and a half times over the legal limit.
On Monday, two victim impact statements were submitted to the court – one from a student who was on the school bus at the time and another from the student’s mother.
Crown Prosecutor Edward Ring said there are a number of aggravating factors including Kolodychuk’s blood alcohol level at the time of the offence, the driving pattern and the number and age of passengers on the bus.
“She was in a position of trust,” he said.
Defence Lawyer Will Willms said his client has acknowledged the seriousness of her actions.
“She has struggled with issues – anxiety issues and other elements,” he said. “It was in November of 2016 that she recognized those issues.”
Willms added Kolodychuk had been attending mental health to try and address those issues.
“She fell short and she fell into a pattern of self medicating,” he said. “She caught her husband off guard and others close to her. She has expressed extreme remorse and felt terribly for those individuals on the bus and more so the parents.”
In his ruling, Judge Bert Skinner said Kolodychuk’s actions could have potentially harmed not only herself but the children on the bus at the time. He said also to consider is the well-being of the parents, the impact to her employer as well as the impact to the community as the incident was reported by news outlets across Canada.
“It was by more good luck than planning that no one was hurt. It is also a blow to the parents of the children,” he said.
In addition, Kolodychuk also received 12 months probation and a 12 month driving prohibition. Kolodychuk will serve her time in prison on weekends.
Following the sentencing, Stu Henry, superintendent for Red Deer Public Schools gave a statement outside of the courthouse.
“It’s horrible story all around. We were really angry when this happened back in the spring. We are thankful none of our students were harmed.”