Sitka police say a school bus driver was arrested Thursday (2-25-22) on suspicion of driving under the influence after going the wrong way on Edgecumbe Drive and hitting a parked car. 

A statement released Friday from the Sitka Police Department says the unnamed 61-year-old driver was ferrying 21 school children when she lost control of the school bus.

Sitka Police Sgt. Gary Cranford told Raven News on Friday afternoon that authorities aren’t ready to release the bus driver’s name. 

“This is still under current investigation,” Cranford said. “And all I can say is the person in the press release, or the individuals in the press release, have not been officially charged. That’s why there’s no identification in the press release.”

Sitka police say the bus was observed shortly before 3 p.m. traveling in the wrong lane of Edgecumbe Drive. It nearly struck a marked police car and hit a parked vehicle and a stop sign. Police chased after the driver, who eventually came to a stop, but not before veering into several sidewalks and curbs.

The driver failed a field sobriety test, and police say she had a breath alcohol level of 0.17 %– more than twice the legal limit of .08. 

No injuries were reported. Sitka School District Superintendent Frank Hauser confirmed that the driver was pulled over after leaving Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School. 

“Keet Gooshi Heen Principal Casey Demmert was notified immediately, and he and staff assisted students and contacted families impacted by this incident,” Hauser said. “He and staff reached out to all impacted families yesterday.”

Hauser said the district has no information beyond what was provided by police. He said the district is cooperating with the investigation.

In an email to elementary school parents, Hauser said the driver is not a Sitka School District employee. The district website lists Island Bus Company as the contractor providing bus services for the district.

On Monday, police issued a new press release, naming Kristi Coltharp as the driver. Coltharp was charged with a DUI and endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree. Both charges are Class A misdemeanors.

Coltharp’s arraignment was set for 1:30 on Tuesday, but the hearing has since been postponed.

Update 1-4-23: On December 2, 2022, Coltharp pleaded guilty to two charges– a DUI for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, and endangering the welfare of a minor, both Class A misdemeanors.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 7:45 p.m. on 2-25-22 to clarify our quote from Superintendent Frank Hauser — we mistakenly reported that Hauser said the crash happened after the bus departed from Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary. In the interview with KCAW, Hauser did confirm that the school bus was pulled over after leaving the elementary school, but did not confirm the time of the crash. It was updated again at 4 p.m. on 2-28-22 to add additional details released by the Sitka Police Department.