The first thing Ramiro Rivera remembered when he saw the breaking news that a school bus in Chattanooga crashed, killing 5 students, was the day he rushed to the scene of his own nightmare.
“It made me remember exactly when I was running to the lake to see if my daughter was there,” Rivera said.
Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins held meetings for parents immediately following the crash and promised that they would replace 200 aging buses by the end of the year. Rivera said some buses are new, but not the bus on his daughter’s route.
“I'm not interested in any lawsuit what I'm interested in is just having a new bus for all those kids,” Rivera said. “Nothing has been done since the crash. Nothing. It was all politics. People vented, that was it.”
“It is strange that as a mom I make sure they are clipped in all the time but yet we send them on the bus every morning and after school with no seat belts on as far as I know,” Chantel Garcy said.
Garcy’s son Jack was thrown out of his seat and submerged underwater as the bus careened into the pond.
“It was scary,” Jack said. “I was sitting right next to a window reading a book so I didn't really know what happened until I got my head above water.”
The bus missed two very large trees as it sped down a grassy hill and into the pond. The video from the Chattanooga crash shows the middle of the school bus wrapped around a tree. A visual that makes Garcy terrified to even think, what if.
“However, if it would've been a couple inches closer to either one of those trees we could've been in the same situation,” Garcy said. “I really can't even imagine. I think of our situation and I feel terrible for them and a terribly sad for them. And, so grateful we are able to be together this year.”
In the case of the Hillsborough crash Garcy is torn. If the students were wearing seat belts she feels that many of them might have been trapped underwater and unable to escape from drowning.
“In our situation last year I think it was best they didn't have seat belts on because they were able to get out from under the water easier, quicker, better,” Garcy said.
For Rivera, he is grateful his daughter was ok. But, he doesn’t think that means his child shouldn’t be riding the safest bus possible equipped with seat belts.
“It's not for the parent it's for the kids,” Rivera said.
We reached out to Hillsborough County Public Schools for comment but have not heard back because of the Thanksgiving holiday.