TAMPA, Fla. -- The Hillsborough County community is mourning the loss of a beloved school bus driver.
School officials say Cynthia Gibson, who drove Hillsborough County Public Schools students for over 30 years, was killed in a car crash on her way to work Monday morning.
According to HCPS' Jim Beekman, Monday was supposed to be Gibson's last first day of school because she was planning on retiring at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
Beekman, who is the general manager of transportation with HCPS, said Gibson touched "thousands of lives in this community through her driving, her service to her church and most important to her, her beautiful family."
"When drivers needed a mentor, they would turn to [Gibson] for guidance," Beekman added. "Today marked my 36th school opening and to this day, I have never met a driver so unique and so full of passion for those around her."
Grief counselors will be available at HCPS' transportation office Tuesday to help employees cope with Gibson's death.
Gibson was not driving the district's school bus in the deadly crash.
Below is the full statement released by Beekman:
There are days in our lives that we will always remember. Some for the joy we experienced and others for the sadness. Today is one that I and our Transportation Family of Hillsborough County Public Schools will remember for the sadness that it brought, the shocking realization of losing such a vibrant member of our family. Cynthia Gibson, known to many as Ms. Cherry, was tragically taken from us in an automobile accident on her way to work this morning. It was the first day of school and to her family she had shared it would be her last first day, she wanted to retire at the end of the year.
Ms. Cherry began her career over 30 years ago with Hillsborough County Transportation and has touched thousands of lives in this community through her driving, her service to her church and most important to her, her beautiful family. She was a strong advocate for drivers and attendants understanding the importance they play every day in the lives of the children and parents in this community. When drivers needed a mentor, they would turn to her for guidance. When schools had some challenging students, she would step forward and work with those at-risk kids and made a difference. Her most rewarding role however, was grandmother to her beautiful grandkids.
Today marked my 36th school opening and to this day, I have never met a driver so unique and so full of passion for those around her. I truly lost a great friend today. Today, as in the days to come, our transportation family will do all we can to help her family through this time of sorrow. Countless folks have come forward today making their own pledge to be a better person, to know not to take any moment in life for granted and to express thanks for the impact that Ms. Cherry made in their life. She was a believer, she had the faith and her friends and family know she heard those beautiful words today, well done, my good and faithful servant.
Words will never capture how much she will be missed by those who knew her.
Authorities did not specify where the deadly crash took place or how it happened.