Limo driver who ferried 23 kids to Oswego East prom denies drunken-driving charges
BY CASEY TONER AND MATT MCKINNEY Staff Reporters May 12, 2013 9:58AM
Updated: June 14, 2013 6:24AM
The limousine driver who allegedly was drunk when he drove 23 teenagers in a party bus to the Oswego East High School prom Saturday night says he is innocent and that mechanical issues with the vehicle were at fault for his erratic driving.
“I’m not guilty, but it is what it is,” Richard L. Madison told the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday, a day after his arrest. “The bus needs wheel alignment and that’s why it was moving the way it did.”
But one of his teen passengers, high school senior Kelsey Dano, described a harrowing ride. Dano said Madison backed the bus into a ditch after he picked the students up and then cut off three cars that were forced to swerve to avoid hitting the bus. She said Madison also slammed on the brakes repeatedly.
“It was shocking, and we were scared,” Dano said.
She said Madison took the bus full of teens to the wrong place, a hotel miles from the prom venue. The students eventually called their parents.
They contacted Oswego Police officers who are assigned to work at schools and provided security at the prom. The officers questioned Madison when he dropped off the kids safely at Abbington Banquets, in an unincorporated area near Glen Ellyn, said Jeff Craig, principal at Oswego East high School. Those officers contacted the DuPage County sheriff’s police, who arrested Madison.
“We were all saying that God was looking over us,” Dano said. She said parents picked up all the teens after the prom.
Madison, 54, of Palos Hills, was charged with two counts of driving under the influence of alcohol and also with reckless conduct.
He said he was arrested after taking a Breathalyzer test.
Madison was driving a Limos Alive party bus. He said he started working part time for Alsip-based Limos Alive about three or four months ago and he also drives students at Prairie-Hills Elementary School District 144. That district’s superintendent, Kimako Patterson, said the schools contract with a bus company and could not confirm that Madison drove students. But a spokesman for Illinois Central School Bus confirmed Sunday that Madison worked for the company and drove District 144 students. He said Madison resigned after he was arresteed. According to the company, any drivers charged with DUI are dismissed.
Madison said his bosses at Limos Alive, had known the vehicle needed its wheels realigned because the bus drivers “write it up every day.”
“You know, if I was guilty, I would still be in jail,” said Madison, who posted bail on Saturday night. “That’s my thought. I would not be at home right now.”
But an official of Limos Alive, who asked not to be identified on the advice of the company’s lawyers, said the bus driven by Madison had been inspected and nothing was wrong with it.
Earlier Sunday, Limos Alive salesman Dave Kebbie said the company fired Madison after learning about the DUI charge.
Kebbie said all employees are routinely drug-tested and the company does not hire drivers with driving infractions during the past two years. Limos Alive contacted the parents of the teens and gave them full refunds and gift certificates for free limousine rentals, he said.
“We try to go above and beyond,” Kebbie said. “We don’t expect anything like this to happen.”
June Charlett, an Oswego East High School community volunteer, praised the students for reporting their concerns.
“It is assuring to see the students were alert and made phone calls to their parents to get the problem under control as quickly as they did,” Charlett said.
“This could have been disastrous,” Charlett said on Sunday.
“It is unbelievable someone in this profession would even contemplate drinking and driving and take the lives of those children in his hands. I was shocked,” Charlett said.
“It makes you really want to check out the companies driving your kids to these events,” she said.
Contributing: Allison Horton, Jordan Owen, Linda Girardi, Dan Mihalopoulos