HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — A former school bus driver here whose bus crashed into a pond in 2015 with 27 students on board has been found not guilty, WFLA reports.
As previously reported, Lenoir Sainfirmin was driving students home on Sept. 17, 2015, when he lost control of the bus and it went careening into a large pond. All the students on board made it back to shore safely with assistance from Sainfirmin, fellow students, and others who responded to the scene. Sainfirmin said that he was hitting the brakes but was unable to stop the bus. However, investigators found no problems with the bus’ brakes and the vehicle’s maintenance records didn’t show any related issues. Jim Beekman, general manager of transportation for Hillsborough County Public Schools, told SBF soon after the incident that the bus' GPS data showed that its last recorded speed was 48 mph.
SBF also previously reported that Sainfirmin had previous experience driving school buses in Washington, D.C., but was in a probationary period as a new driver with Hillsborough County Public Schools. He was let go within a week after the crash occurred. Sainfirmin’s attorney pleaded not guilty to a reckless driving charge on his behalf in January 2016.
A judge ruled on Friday that there was no evidence to support the charge, according to WFLA. The judge also said that no evidence was presented in court regarding the brakes of the speed of the bus. Video from the bus appears to show Sainfirmin continuously pumping the brakes before the crash, according to the news source.
Tanya Arja, the department manager of public relations for Hillsborough County Public Schools, told WFLA that the district denies there are problems with its fleet. (Early media reports noted that the bus that Sainfirmin was driving was over 20 years old.) Arja also told WFLA that the buses are inspected every 30 days, and that old buses are not necessarily unsafe buses.