TAMPA, Fla. — On Thursday afternoon, a school bus carrying 27 elementary school students was traveling through Nine Eagles community, when, for unknown reasons, the bus ran off of the road and into a pond, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
The first three deputies to arrive at the scene — Deputy Greg Wehr, Deputy Steve Favors and Deputy Nancy Burkett — jumped in to help the students exit safely and search for more children. As a result of their efforts, all of the children aboard the bus and the bus driver exited the bus and pond and no one was seriously injured.
Nicholas Sierra, a 10-year-old student and safety patroller at Mary E. Bryant Elementary School, rescued three of his fellow students from the submerged bus, taking one student from the bus to dry land, and returning for two more and bringing them to safety as well, Tampa Bay Times reports.
One of the students aboard the bus told WFTS that he was grateful the bus did not have seat belts because "you can get stuck under the water with a seat belt." The bus involved in the crash is 20 years old and has approximately 294,000 miles, according to the news source.
Hillsborough County Public Schools officials told the newspaper that bus driver Lenoir Sainfimin stayed at the scene and made sure all the students were safe. Until a mechanic examines the bus, the cause of the crash cannot be confirmed, sheriff’s office officials said. The driver was not cited and is not facing charges at this time.
However, Sainfimin was suspended with pay as district officials wait for results from a toxicology test, as well as the results of the sheriff's office investigation, according to Tampa Bay Times. That is standard procedure in such accidents, Tanya Arja, district spokeswoman told the newspaper.
District officials are also pulling maintenance records for the bus, and a mechanic was set to inspect the bus, which was a substitute bus, on Thursday, Tampa Bay Times reports.