The Escambia County School District is calling for an investigation of the firm that owns the dump truck which hit a school bus on Thursday. Sixteen students and the bus driver were injured.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the dump truck ran a red light at West Jordan Street and Pace Boulevard, striking the bus on the rear left side and causing it to flip over and hit a utility pole.
“It was very obvious to anyone who observed the dump truck that it was in a poor state of repair,” said Superintendent Malcolm Thomas. His letter to the FHP’s Compliance Investigation Unit and the Department of Transportation seeks an investigation by into G. B. Green Construction Management’s fleet of vehicles, maintenance program and practices, and its operator hiring practices.
“My concern is that this construction company – if they have one truck like this, do they have more?” said Thomas. “I believe that we were very blessed to have all of our students and our staff that was (sic) on that bus to be able to walk away.”
Thomas commended the actions of the students, first responders, and others who came to help. He singled out bus driver Harriet Collins, and her reaction to speed up when she saw the dump truck bearing down on her, avoiding a mid-bus or “T-bone” collision.
Transportation Director Rob Doss says it would have been “catastrophic,” had those students been in a private vehicle instead of a school bus.
“It is the safest vehicle on the road,” Doss said. “The state design specifications are extraordinary, with all the reflective tape requirements, rollover requirements, the caging over the top, reinforced rails and side structures. And even the seats are designed for maximum student safety.”
Of the 40 thousand-plus students in the Escambia School District, roughly 24 thousand ride the District’s fleet of 330 school buses each day. The vehicles are on the road eight hours per day during the nine-month school year, which began last week. Doss urges motorists to use extreme caution around them. That includes watching for flashing lights on a school bus -- yellow means caution and red lights mean stop – that’s the law.
“You’re required to stop in either direction, unless you’re divided by an established median four feet wide,” said Doss. “Other than that, you need to be stopped for as long as that arm and the stop sign and those flashing lights are illuminated. There’s a safety zone so you don’t get anywhere close to any student that may be getting on or off the school bus.”
The other thing to watch for, says Doss, is deployment of the six-foot arm on the front of the vehicle, which enables drivers to watch all kids leaving the vehicle.
Failure to stop for a school bus that’s loading or unloading, upon conviction, can mean a $100 fine – a second offense within five years could lead to a 90-day driver’s license suspension. Failing to stop and passing on the side where kids are getting on and off the bus doubles those penalties.
Superintendent Malcolm Thomas says his call for an investigation of G.B. Green Construction has support from Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan.