Local 6 investigates Lynx bus drivers allowed to work following multiple accidents
ORLANDO, Fla. – The mother of a young boy who was hit and killed by a Lynx bus driver is calling for Central Florida's bus agency to toughen its termination policies when it comes to drivers with multiple accidents.
Sharon Robinson's son, Matt, was only 10 when he was killed by a Lynx bus driven by a man who had been involved in several prior accidents and allowed to stay on the job.
Now, five years after the crash that killed her son, it appears Lynx will have to pay the grieving mother $3.2 million, pending Gov. Rick Scott's signature on the settlement Lynx agreed to that was already approved by state lawmakers.
A Local 6 investigation has uncovered the fact that since her son's death, there have been other drivers with multiple preventable accidents who were also allowed to keep driving, even after Lynx managers thought they should be fired.
Robinson said she hopes changes can be made so other parents don't have to deal with the same devastating loss she did.
"Lynx needs to change their policy," Robinson said. "My son is gone; that alone should have been a wake-up call. He was 10. He was a baby."
'HE'S NO LONGER WITH ME'
Even though the crash in Kissimmee that killed Robinson's son was five years ago, the memory is still fresh in her mind.
"You know, coming here just kind of puts into reality that he's no longer with me," Robinson told Local 6 while visiting her son's grave.
Matthew's older brother, Mark, was with Matthew when they both were crossing at a Kissimmee crosswalk and a Lynx bus driver failed to yield and crashed into them. Mark somehow went under the bus and survived.
"When I crawled out, that's when I saw that Matt was laying there, and I wasn't sure what to think," Mark said.
When Sharon Robinson made it to the scene, officers were covering Matt's body with a yellow tarp.
"There is no explanation, there is no way to explain that," Robinson said. "It's like the whole world just crashed on you."
What made it worse is that a Lynx supervisor admitted the driver had been in five previous preventable accidents, and shouldn't have been on the road.
"Because somebody who has five prior preventable accidents shouldn't be operating a bus, true?" asked Robinson's attorney.
"Yeah, I agree," the Lynx supervisor said during a videotaped deposition.
The driver, Fernando Vega, was later fired, but Local 6 has learned Lynx still allows drivers with multiple accidents to continue driving.
Lynx CEO DEFENDS DECISION TO EMPLOY DRIVERS WITH MULTIPLE ACCIDENTS
Local 6 uncovered Lynx records stating that in October 2011, Lynx fired drivers Jack Pendergast for having 13 preventable accidents and Walter Davidson for having 17 preventable accidents, five of those within a 12-month period.
And in November 2013, Lynx records show the bus agency fired driver Marcus Phillips for multiple offenses, including "not stopping at several stop signs" and punching a passenger.
But within six months, all of those drivers were back on the job after Lynx CEO John Lewis said he decided to allow them to keep their jobs even though their supervisors wanted them off the roads.
"Not every crime mandates the death penalty," Lewis said.
Local 6 sat down with Lewis and pointed out how the records state the employees were terminated by their managers.
"If a manager who has direct contact with that driver makes the recommendation for that driver to be terminated, why would you then overturn that?" Local 6's Louis Bolden asked Lewis.
"Because I have to take into consideration the big picture of everything that goes on," Lewis said.
Lewis explained that while supervisors wanted the drivers terminated, he made the ultimate decision to keep the drivers on the job by offering a last-chance agreement, which is basically a yearlong probation that he said was given after a lengthy suspension without pay.
But that doesn't sit well with Robinson.
"Lynx needs to change their policy," she said.
Local 6 News reached out to all of the drivers for comment.
Marcus Phillips is the only driver we mentioned who is still on the road today. He denies the allegations made by Lynx in his discipline file.
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