Final stop for bus passengers was call to police

By Carolyne Meng-Yee

A passenger who dobbed in an allegedly drunk bus driver to police is "gobsmacked" that he has lost his job, but says she and two other passengers were so frightened they got off the bus early.

Napier finance administrator Annie Emerson left the Hastings to Napier Go Bus with two other women after driver Carl Hughes, who regularly does the run, began behaving erratically last week.

Emerson claims Hughes smelled strongly of alcohol, struggled to change the destination sign, took a wrong turn and drove slumped over the side of the seat.

Emerson said other passengers became concerned after Hughes allegedly began tailgating cars in the rainy conditions and driving close to the centre line.

"That's when we got scared ... we were getting panicky by that stage because of the rain. The expressway in Napier can get really congested in such a small area. So there was no room to stop, if he had to slam on his brakes he would have hit the car in front of us."

Emerson got off the bus early with two other passengers and called her husband Mike to pick them up.

Although initially reluctant to call the police, Emerson said her husband convinced her it was the right thing to do.

"He said 'you couldn't live with yourself if he [the driver] crossed the line and killed an innocent family'.

"I'm really sorry for dobbing him in but I really felt I had to. I was worried for the safety of the passengers and for his too."

Hughes had been the regular driver for the past eight months and had always been helpful and friendly, Emerson said.

Police pulled Hughes over after he had reached Napier and was returning to Hastings with six passengers on board. He was given a breath test, which he failed.

One of the police officers, Sergeant Brendon Berkett, drove the bus and its remaining passengers to Hastings. Berkett, who used to work in his father's Hawke's Bay earth-moving business, holds heavy vehicle licences.

Hughes said he was "devastated" to lose his job and says he wants it back.

He admitted drinking two-and-a-half glasses of wine that morning at the funeral of his best friend's wife who had died of cancer, but denied that he was drunk, driving dangerously or behaving erratically.

"I was a silly boy. I should have had Raro (juice) or something like that. I completely admit that I was in the wrong but you know it's one of those things I can't take back.

"I will swear that I wasn't weaving across the road or speeding."

Police are yet to lay charges and are still waiting for the results of a blood test.

Hughes accepted that Go Bus had to lay him off, he said.

"They have a zero tolerance of alcohol and drugs so I have breached that. It is my stupid fault."

- Herald on Sunday

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