10-year-old girl recalls frightening bus ride before driver’s DUI arrest

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STANISLAUS COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) -- A wild bus ride in Stanislaus County that endangered dozens of kids was recalled Thursday by a 10-year-old girl.

“When we got on, we didn’t like the way it smelled. Like it smelled like smoke or like something, like weird,” said Amber Stowell.

Stowell said she and dozens of other children, some as young as 5 years old, were taken for one of the most terrifying rides of their young lives Monday in Stanislaus County.

Stowell said her bus driver, 55-year-old Karolyn Denise Ray, had been acting erratically and driving dangerously. The girl told FOX40 Ray got onto Interstate 5, which is not a road she was supposed to take, and began hitting the brakes repeatedly.

Instead of apologizing, Stowell said Ray blamed the kids for the mistake.

“Yelling at us, like, for no reason and it’s just like she started yelling and saying, ‘Be quiet,’” Stowell explained. “And we were all quiet and she kept on repeating herself saying that she would come down the aisles and make sure we had our seatbelts on.”

Ray had braked so hard at one point a young boy hit his head, according to the 10-year-old.

She said a brave fifth grade boy called 911.

Stowell said she and other kids called their parents, frantic and frightened.

Her father, Daniel, said he thought his daughter may have exaggerated at first but he said he soon knew something was very wrong.

“CHP has their back turned, she walked about 5 feet away, threw a bag in the bushes, walked back to the car,” Daniel Stowell told FOX40. “They were getting ready to release her and said they had nothing on her. The security guard had noticed it and goes, ‘Hey, did you guys see that?’”

The CHP has not said what that substance was.

Stowell said while she’s afraid of getting back on the bus, it’s the only way for her and a lot of other kids to get to school.

The Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District has said Ray works as a subcontractor for First Student Inc. She is now facing DUI and child endangerment charges.

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