TAMPA — Deputies are searching for a woman accused of blocking a special needs school bus with her car, getting out and banging and kicking on the bus door until she broke the glass.
And there were four children inside, deputies said, as she shouted a string of profanities at the bus driver during this April 12 road rage incident.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said Friday that the woman is wanted on a charge of criminal mischief. She is accused of inflicting $250 worth of damage on the bus.
"It was scary," said bus driver Sidonie West at a Friday news conference. "It’s most scary for the kids because they don’t have verbal communication skills. There were a lot of tears, a lot of screaming. They were very upset."
The Sheriff’s Office also released a video showing an unidentified woman in blue scrubs pounding on the bifold door of the yellow school bus in Town ’N Country.
Deputies said the incident between the school bus and the maroon Nissan Altima took place on Sheldon Road just before 4:30 p.m.
West said the school bus had to move into a different lane due to road work. After she drove past the construction, the bus driver said she saw the Altima weaving back and forth in her rearview mirror.
"I guess she was upset that the bus moved over," West said.
Deputies said the Altima driver abruptly stopped in front of the school bus on Sheldon Road, blocking it in. Then the driver got out of her car, walked around to the bus door and, while swearing, struck the glass.
West did not let the woman into the bus. The Altima driver kicked the bifold door just before heading back to her car.
It took a while to calm the four children inside the bus after the incident, said West, who has spent 18 years driving for the Hillsborough County School District.
It’s not clear why the Altima driver was irate, said Hillsborough sheriff’s Cpl. Larry McKinnon, but they are classifying it as a road rage incident.
West said that in her years driving a school bus, this is the first time someone has ever screamed or kicked at the bus.
"I’ve see plenty of people yelling at cars, but never at a school bus," West said. "We are trained for it, but it’s a different world when it actually happens."
The Sheriff’s Office asks anyone who can identify the Altima driver to call (813) 247-8200. To send an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers, call toll-free 1-800-873-8477, use crimestopperstb.com or send the tip through the P3 Tips Mobile application.