A Duluth bus driver is the the St. Louis County Jail after having been arrested on charges of five counts in relation to driving drunk while transporting high school students home from a sports game.

The incident happened on Thursday, December 30. The Denfeld boys basketball team was in Hibbing, participating in the North Star State Hardwood Showcase.

The first signs of something amiss occurred on the drive up to the Iron Range from Duluth.  According to a story in the Duluth News Tribune [paywall], the team and coaches observed some strange behavior on the drive - from road rage to "clipping a stop sign near Hibbing High School".  Duluth Denfeld boys basketball head coach Phill Homere explains:

"That was confusing to us, when he hit the stop sign, but he was nonchalant about it and said he apologized.  We figured at the time, he got us to the game safely."

Following a 84-51 loss to Superior, the team got ready to head for the bus for the ride home.  But, that trip home started strange as well.  Instead of the coach bus being parked near the gym of the school, it was parked instead a long way from the entrance - "some 300 feet away".

Duluth Denfeld High School in Duluth, MN - Duluth School District
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
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The team and the coaches boarded the bus.  That's when the driver complained of "not having his phone with him for navigation of knowing the way home".  To help out, the coaches began directing the driver on how to get out of Hibbing and to the highway towards home.

At the same time, the bus driver expressed his nervousness about the adults talking to him.  He also "made paranoid comments about a gun".  He also seemed to mistake a snow plow for law enforcement, saying "I'm guessing this is for me".

That's when coach Homere took action to intercede.  He "notified parents outside the bus to contact the authorities".

Duluth Denfeld High School in Duluth, MN - Duluth School District
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
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Finally, the coaches talked the driver into pulling off in Cotton.  That's where the Minnesota State Patrol arrested the suspect on the charges. While being attended to by the responding EMS workers, the suspect admitted to drinking vodka.

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The 47-year old driver of the bus was not an employee of the Duluth School District.  Rather, he was a contracted worker with an outside transportation company.  Official charges are still pending.

This is the second time in a week that Hibbing was in the news with a sports team-related bus story.  Check out the video a Delano hockey team pushing their stuck bus out of the snow after a game in Hibbing.

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