Hillsborough bus trainer: Accident could’ve been prevented

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – On Tuesday, in a unanimous vote, the Hillsborough County School Board voted to purchase 200 new buses, 50 of which would be propane-fueled. It will cost $21 million.

Officials are working with three separate vendors to purchase the buses. The district should receive the new buses by May 31, 2016.

In addition, Superintendent Jeff Eakins says money is already budgeted to purchase 100 additional buses each year for the next decade. The new buses will replace older buses until the entire fleet is updated.

More than 150 of Hillsborough’s 900 school buses on the roads right now are two decades old. On Sept. 17 a bus carrying 31 students crashed into a pond. While that bus was 20 years old, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office found the driver was at fault – not mechanical issues.

The proposal to buy new buses was on the table before the Sept. 17 accident.

As the board prepared to vote on the buses, Corie Holmes came to the microphone during a public comment period. He expressed his concerns about driver training and said the buses are not the issue.

“When I saw that tape I knew it was not a malfunction issue with the bus and I phoned several board members and shared the issue (about the driver) because I remember having him in training,” Holmes said. He told News Channel 8 he reached out to school board members April Griffin and Cindy Stuart.

Video shows Holmes training the driver who was involved in the crash, Lenoir Sanfimin. The district released Sanfimin, who was in a probationary period, after investigators found the driver was at fault in the accident. They claim Sanfimin was speeding and that he was hitting both the gas and the brake while trying to stop the bus.

Holmes said Sanfimin shouldn’t have been driving a Hillsborough County school bus. “He should’ve been remediated and he should not have been released,” Holmes said. “I’m hoping to talk to Mr. Eakins. I’ve placed two phone calls to him. They have not yet been returned.”

The district said Holmes resigned from his job Monday. When 8 On Your Side asked if Holmes was a disgruntled employee, he said, “I truly am concerned about the safety of students. I am still employed. That’s my choice. The district is not pushing me out at all.”

8 On Your Side asked if there are other bus drivers people should be concerned about. “I would say, ‘Absolutely yes,” Holmes responded.

 

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