Bus rider: 2 big bumps and then water

Posted at 2:55 PM, Sep 18, 2015

A school bus with children on board overturned Thursday into a pond near Nine Eagle Drive and Kingsmill Road in north Tampa, according to Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

The bus was transporting students from Mary E. Bryant Elementary School in Tampa. The students managed to get out safely and the driver was accounted for. 

"It was a big bump, then another big speed bump then all of a sudden, water," said Connor, 7, a second grader. His mom allowed ABC Action News to talk to him as long as the station didn't use his last name.

"Then I had to swim up," he said. "I hope that's the last time that's ever gonna happen."

Some students were treated for minor cuts and bruises on their hands, legs and heads.

According to reports from the scene, 28 children, ages 6 to 8, were on the bus, which wound up on its side in the water.

Many of the children were able to escape through the rear emergency door, which had popped open.

Connor was sitting in the front of the bus and said he swam through the windshield after it shattered.

"The whole windshield fell clear off except for one sharp edge, I got past that sharp edge," Connor said. Connor was grateful the bus didn't have seat belts.

"You know why?" he said. "You can get stuck under the water with a seat belt. You could just get stuck under there cause the seatbelt holds you down."

The scene inside the bus was sheer panic. Connor said students were trying to get to high ground.

"Everybody was fighting to get onto the bus' engine, to not get eaten by alligators, so everybody was fighting dragging people down to get on top of the engine," Connor said. 

Passersby stopped and jumped into the water to help the students to shore. Deputies arriving at the scene joined the water rescue.

Witnesses said the bus driver, Lenoir Sainfimin, 54, played a big role by staying on the bus and helping get the kids to safety.

Once on shore, many of the children were terrified and screaming.

The bus stop was nearby and frantic parents rushed to the scene.

The roof of the bus hit a tree limb before it went into the water.

Witnesses said the bus appeared to be speeding as it approached a curve where it left the road.

Investigators are now trying to determine what led to the crash. It's believed the brakes may have failed.

Connor said he will not be riding the bus to school again. 

The ABC Action News I-Team found out the bus involved in this crash is 20 years old and has approximately 294,000 miles.

Check out our searchable database of Tampa Bay area school bus information and share the information with other parents. Polk County's information is not displayed because it was the only county that wanted to charge for this information. The information is from 2014.

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