TAMPA, Florida — A driver whose school bus careened into a large pond and tipped over with students on board last week has been cited and fired for the incident.
The crash occurred on Thursday afternoon. There were 27 elementary school students on the bus, all of whom made it safely back to shore with help from the driver, fellow students and others who responded to the scene.
Some early media reports drew attention to the age of the bus — it was a 1994 model with close to 300,000 miles on it. Also, the driver, Lenoir Sainfimin, said that he was hitting the brakes but couldn’t stop the bus.
However, investigators found no problems with the bus’ brakes, nor did the maintenance records for the vehicle show any related issues, police and district officials said.
On Tuesday, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office cited Sainfimin for careless driving. A police spokesperson said in a news conference that the driver apparently hit the accelerator while hitting the brake.
Jim Beekman, general manager of transportation for Hillsborough County Public Schools, told SBF that GPS data from the bus showed that its last recorded speed was 48 mph.
Beekman said that after the bus went into the pond, it tipped onto its right side, which became submerged in the water. The bus did not have seat belts — it was built before Florida enacted a requirement for lap belts on school buses in 2001.
Sainfimin was new to Hillsborough but had prior school bus driving experience in the Washington, D.C., area. Beekman said that Sainfimin had just gone through training with the district and was still in a probationary period. He was let go on Tuesday.
Still, Beekman noted that after the crash, Sainfimin made sure that his passengers got out safely.
“He was the last one off the bus, and he went back to ensure that everyone was off that bus,” Beekman said.