'Scared' bus passengers told troopers driver seemed drunk

Kyle Hopkins

A bus load of cruise ship passengers waited by the side of the Seward Highway for two hours after their driver was arrested for drunken driving, the arresting trooper said Monday.

Steven McKinley, 33, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.341 more than an hour after passengers first phoned for help, according to paperwork filed in state court in Seward. That's eight times the legal limit for a commercial driver.

"I've never seen this before. I've been with the troopers for 17 years," said Sgt. John Brown, who found McKinley walking away from his 46 passengers shortly after 9 a.m. Friday on the Seward Highway.

McKinley had been hired earlier in the month by Anchorage-based Alaska Cruise Transfer and Tours, a spokeswoman told The Associated Press. The business describes itself on its website as the "leading shuttle transportation company for all cruise lines in Alaska" and advertises $52 trips from Seward to Anchorage.

The passengers on McKinley's bus began calling 911 from the bus as it headed to Anchorage at 8:51 a.m. Friday, according to an affidavit written by Brown.

"McKinley had been weaving in his lane and went off the road briefly," the trooper wrote.

Shortly after 9 a.m., the passengers convinced McKinley to pull over near mile 12 of the Seward Highway, Brown wrote.

"They reported that he was weaving on the roadway and they felt that he was intoxicated," Brown said in a phone interview Monday. The passengers sounded "very scared," Brown said he was told by 911 dispatchers.

Brown discovered the driver at 9:13 a.m. He was about a quarter mile from the bus, walking toward Anchorage.

"He was upset at the passengers ... I'm not sure he really fully realized the implication of walking 100 miles," Brown said.

McKinley swayed while standing and mumbled, the trooper wrote. He had red, watery eyes and struggled with field sobriety tests such as following a pen with his eyes and standing on one leg, the trooper wrote. He refused to blow into a Breathalyzer, the trooper wrote. Brown arrested him for drunken driving.

The driver provided a breathe sample at 10:22 a.m. at the Seward jail, registering a blood-alcohol level of 0.341, the affidavit said. The legal limit for driving a commercial vehicle is 0.04, according to the Alaska Department of Motor Vehicles.

A second trooper stayed with the bus passengers until a replacement driver arrived, Brown said.

McKinley was a new driver who passed a drug and alcohol test when hired, the company spokeswoman said. He is no longer working for the business.

McKinley has been charged with drunken driving and 46 counts of misdemeanor reckless endangerment -- one for each passenger.

Brown, the veteran trooper, said tour bus drivers are normally a cautious group. He said he doesn't know when or how McKinley allegedly became so drunk the morning of the trip.

The bus driver did not initially admit to drinking, Brown said. "You don't have to say anything, and that's what he was choosing to do, was not really talking about the circumstances of why he was walking down the highway."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Twitter updates: twitter.com/adn_kylehopkins. Call Kyle Hopkins at 257-4334 or email him at khopkins@adn.com.



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