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Parents want to know more after Odessa bus crash

Posted: 3:48 AM, Sep 25, 2015
Updated: 2015-09-25 03:48:07-04

A week ago, elementary students from Mary E. Bryant were on the way home from school when the bus they were riding in jumped a curb at an estimated 48 mph and crashed into a pond.

The driver, Lenoir Sainfimin, has been charged with careless driving.  

He was behind the wheel when the school bus he was driving with 27 students on board crashed into a pond in Odessa last week.

The I-Team discovered before he was recently hired in August, he had a careless driving charge from 2014. That charge was the result of a multi-car crash on I-275.

“How do you allow a guy who has been in an accident, and taken the exam multiple times and fails, and still hire that person and let them behind the wheel of a bus,” Nikko Pianatto said. That is the same question Pianatto said he asked the Hillsborough County School District’s Superintendent, Jeff Eakins.

“No answer,” Pianatto said.  

The meeting at the elementary school was closed to the media.  Many parents told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska they were still too emotional about what happened to talk on camera.  But, parents that did stop to talk said they want more concrete information from the district.

“The superintendent came on and he was not giving us the answers we want to hear just kind of holding something back, I don't know,” Krishna Sadasivam said.  Sadasivam’s second grade daughter was on the bus.  Even though Sadasivam knows the driver was charged, he still worries about aging buses on the roads.

“I don't feel better.  I just need answers.  I will feel better when my daughter has a safe driver and a safe bus that she can go to and from school,” Sadasivam said.

Superintendent Jeff Eakins released a statement on the district’s website:

Many of you have contacted us about the recent bus accident in our district. I wanted to reach out to all of you with an update.
First, I want you to know that like all of you, the safety of our children is a top priority for me, your board, and your district. Each day more than 900 buses transport almost 90,000 students to and from school each day and most days, it is without incident.
We have already replaced 100 of our older buses and at our September 29 board meeting, I will introduce an agenda item to purchase 200 more. And, I have already budgeted for the annual purchase of 100 new buses each year for the next 10 years.
Right now, we are waiting for the Sheriff's Office to release their independent results regarding last week’s bus accident. Once that information has been received, we will share it with you immediately. Also, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the officers, parents, and students for their heroism on that day. Your quick thinking was very instrumental in getting all of our children to safety.
I hope that you know that I take on this enormous responsibility with great humility and I am honored for the chance to serve each of you. Don’t hesitate to contact me at any time. You can call our offices or email me at:
table.talk@sdhc.k12.fl.us

This was the first time parents and students met with the superintendent to air out their concerns.  Parents said the district promised more meetings and the release of information regarding this case as it becomes available.

“The thing to take away here is that they are here, we are communicating and the communication is good and they are going to follow up,” parent Tim Castle said.

Sainfimin stands by his original statement that the bus had a mechanical issue and there is nothing he could do.

“We believe as he was approaching that guard shack, coming up the hill, he was traveling too fast and had some split second decisions to make: Do I strike the guard shack? Or do I try to bring this bus to safety by jumping the curb,” Maj. Chad Chronister with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said. “We think he went with, ‘Hey I can save this. I can try to regain control of this bus,’ at which time he was unfortunately unable to.”