TAMPA (FOX 13) - It was a short hearing with a big outcome for former school bus driver, Lenoir Sainfimin.
Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Michael Williams found him not guilty of careless driving in the September 2015 incident where his school bus full of kids sped into a pond.
"Due to the lack of evidence, the court finds Mr. Sainfimin not guilty in this case," Judge Williams said. “The main concern of this court is the schoolchildren. Thankfully, none of them were hurt. But due to the lack of evidence presented in this case – there are no witnesses here today – the court finds Mr. Sainfimin not guilty.”
Back in September of 2015, Sainfimin’s bus veered off the road and crashed through a gate, winding up in a pond. Investigators initially said he was speeding recklessly as he neared the Eagles community in Odessa.
"The driver's actions, his mistakes, were careless," HCSO Major Chad Chronister said at the time, adding that Sainfimin was going at least 45 mph in a 35-mph zone.
But Sainfimin has long maintained that there was a mechanical failure.
“I pressed the brake of the bus. When I checked, the brake had failed,” he insisted. “I tried to do the best I could to save [the] kids’ lives.”
After the surprisingly sudden verdict, Sainfimin hugged his attorneys.
"God is good. I'm happy," Sainfimin said after the judge's ruling.
The Hillsborough Sheriff's Office was excused from showing up to the Friday morning hearing. One of Sainfimin's attorneys, Ralph Fernandez was quick to thank the sheriff's office for all their hard work in the case.
"I really commend the sheriffs office and their review of the subsequent evidence as presented on the continuing investigation," said Fernandez.
“He had no fault,” Fernandez added. “He did everything that he could to avoid the accident. He was pumping the brakes. We have an old fleet, an old bus, recurring problems that jeopardize the safety of the children.”