HART bus driver keeps job after flood, actions

Posted at 10:22 PM, Sep 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-11 22:22:24-04

UPDATE: The  I-Team has learned HART will not fire the bus driver who was driving the flooded streets in Tampa.

It's pretty hard to forget the video taken by a passenger that day. Water gushes through the doors.

Bus driver Shchnaider Prophete keeps going, even though the water was reaching the tops of cars.

Prohphete says he was told to keep going by his supervisors, even after he told them it was unsafe.

Audio recordings revealed by the I-Team appear to support his story.

Now, even though HART is not firing him, they're still suspending him 5 days without pay. Prophete has already served 4 of those days.

However, he's appealing the decision and wants his paid days back. That appeal is still pending.

Prophete's manager that day, Carlos Inclan, was written up and, by choice, left dispatching to drive buses.

PREVIOUS REPORT: HART bus driver Schnaider Prophete says his job is on the line after what happened during recent floods in Tampa.
Cellphone video a passenger took at the time shows water gushing through the front door of his vehicle, filling up the aisles with several passengers on board. Prophete keeps pushing through.
Prophete says he kept driving because his supervisors told him to and he was scared he would lose his job. After the incident, HART issued Prophete two disciplinary infractions, one for gross negligent action and the other for reckless driving. Both are grounds for termination.
He was also suspended three and a half days without pay. Prophete tells the I-Team, "I don't think I deserve any infraction at all. I should be working peacefully."
The I-Team got the audio recordings between Prophete and his direct supervisors—the dispatchers. Prophet says before the bus took on water, he called seven times, telling them how bad it was and that it was unsafe. Here is some of the exchange over several audio clips.
Bus driver: Do you want me to go the regular route or you want me to…
Dispatcher: Just do regular route as much as you can. We can see which streets are flooded man. Alright?
Bus driver: I don't think it's safe to come back the same route.
Bus driver: ...because the water and the traffic is crazy. A car break down, the water coming inside the bus. Coming up high!
This was what one of his supervisors said:
Dispatcher: Yeah you gotta. Yeah the bus will make it through there.  We have this problem all the time. Just use extreme caution and drive slow.
He called dispatch several times saying it's unsafe. At one point he even mentioned water is at the top of a car.
Bus driver: I wonder, do you want me to continue or you want me to try and make a U-turn and comeback over?
Prophete said he was continuously told "continue on until you can't."
Ruthie Reyes Burkhard, the chief operating officer for HART, said ultimately the drivers are trained to know that it's their discretion.
"I don't think they exchanged enough information for the dispatcher to really get the level of the circumstances there," Burkhard said.
While Prophete could lose his job, his supervising dispatcher, Carlos Inclan, faces only a possible reprimand.  
"Ultimately the operator is really more highly responsible for the actions that happened that day," Burkhard said.
She notes Prophete's bus was the only one taken out of service for water damage, and other bus drivers refused to go down roads and were not disciplined.
Prophete said he's an Army veteran and has been driving for HART for 10 years, and he's not getting fired without a fight. His disciplinary hearing with HART managers is later this week.