Internal investigation clears Orange County school bus drivers

Two incidents, days apart, were both captured on camera. Orange County school buses were caught with railroad crossing arms resting on them. The Orange County Public Schools internal investigation has concluded the school bus drivers did nothing wrong.

One bus stopped feet from a passing train; the other cleared the tracks before the train roared through. Students were on board both buses, but luckily no one was hurt.

The News Station notified the district, Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) launched an internal investigation into the incidents but both drivers were found to not be at fault.  Parents we spoke to, aren’t buying it.

“I would not want my kid on that bus,” said Kyle McDaniel, parent. “They’re trained to stop the bus and open the doors to check for a train before they even get to the arm. How is that not at fault?”

“Somebody needs to check them because there’s something wrong with that, look at the picture, the picture says a thousand words,” said Leslie Davis.

We asked School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs to explain how the district came to this conclusion. In a statement, Jacobs wrote:

“When I learned of this situation from a parent, I was extremely alarmed and I still am. I alerted our Chief Operating Officer and he conducted a full investigation. The investigation -- which included video of the actions of both bus drivers -- showed they followed all safety procedures, stopping before the crossing, opening the door, looking and listening. Only after they found no evidence of an oncoming train did they proceed. This raises the question of whether there may be problems with the actual crossings. Did the gate come down prematurely, did the train horns work properly, were there visual impediments, especially if quite zones have been implemented?  For these reasons, OCPS met with SunRail and it is my understanding that SunRail is also looking into the matter. Considering how extremely serious this risk is, if it hasn’t already been done,  I would urge a re-enactment (with empty buses) at both crossings to determine what went wrong so that changes can be implemented immediately to prevent this from happening again.”

“It’s obvious that they should have been behind because before they even put the arm down, the lights are flashing, so if the arm is on top of them, it was already flashing before they went through,” said Breana Davis, parent.

“That just seems like irresponsible driving,” said Tiffany McDaniel, parent.

The district has expressed concerns with the railroad crossings but SunRail confirms, in at least one of the incidents, the crossing was functioning as intended. OCPS and SunRail are in conversations about improvements that can be made.

The News Station requested the onboard bus footage used in the internal investigation but the District denied the request, saying it’s exempt from public record.