School district officials said Cynthia Gibson, known to her students as Ms. Cherrie, died in a car crash on her way to work Monday morning, which was the first day of school, reported Bay News 9.
Authorities did not specify where the accident took place or how it happened. It was confirmed, however, Gibson was not driving the district’s school bus in the deadly crash.
A longtime employee of Hillsborough County School District, Gibson had been driving HCSD students for more than 30 years. She was planning to retire after the 2019-2020 school year, according to Jim Beekman, the school board’s General Manager of Transportation.
In addition to her three decades of bus driving, Gibson is also remembered for being a role model for her coworkers, helping kids in need, active church member, and loving grandmother.
Beekman said in a statement that 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 her for guidance,” Beekman added. “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.”
“I have never met a driver so unique and so full of passion for those around her.”
The tragedy happened the same day a truck crashed into a school bus in Lehigh Acres, Florida.
Troopers say one student was injured in a school bus crash on the first day of school Monday in Lehigh Acres.
According to Florida Highway Patrol, the bus was heading east around 7:50 a.m. on Eisenhower Boulevard when a pickup truck on Grant Boulevard moving northbound crashed into it.
The pickup truck’s driver, 18-year-old Hughes, did not stop at a stop sign, per the release. The front portion of his truck struck the left side of the school bus.
There were 5 children on the bus, en route to Gateway Elementary. One 8-year-old student suffered a minor injury and was taken to Health Park as a precaution. The bus driver had a minor knee injury, but was not taken to the hospital.
Records of Florida Highway Patrol shows 21,171 school buses crashes in the state from 2012 to 2018. 3,177 of these accidents happened in the past year.
New legislation called the Wireless Communications While Driving Law will come into effect this October in Florida, prohibiting the hand-held use of any wireless communications device while driving in a designated school crossing, school zone, or active work zone area, according to Florida Department of Highways Safety and Motor Vehicles. The law authorizes traffic officers to pull over drivers who are texting and driving, making the action a primary offense.
Florida is among the last few states to implement such a law, according to Florida Today.