HOLIDAY, Fla. - A Pasco County mother believes a pair of mistakes nearly cost her 4-year-old son his life shortly after he got off the school bus Thursday.
Joseph Soto's mother, Jennifer Moore, said she was waiting at her son's normal bus stop and realized something was wrong when he didn't get off the bus. After a brief discussion with the driver, she realized Joseph had been let off too early.
She got in her car, rounded the corner and her heart sunk.
"I thought my baby was dead. He was laying in the middle of the road not moving. I thought I lost my baby," she said. "And to think somebody could just hit him and leave."
Florida Highway Patrol said that's exactly what the driver of a blue Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck did. According to investigators, the truck slammed into Joseph as the child crossed Flora Avenue, but the vehicle didn't stop.
The collision broke the little boy's femur and left him with road rash. But his mother knows how fortunate he is to be alive. Moore said her son underwent surgery Friday morning.
"I'm happy my baby is alive. I can hold my baby another day," Moore said. "I'm mad because two people could have prevented this. One, dropping him off at the right spot. And, the other, paying attention to where they're going."
This was Joseph's second week of kindergarten at Sun Ray Elementary School and he's one week shy of his fifth birthday.
"He's so full of life, so energetic, loves sports, loves animals, painting, coloring," Moore said.
FOX 13 has learned that students in Pasco County have tags on their backpacks with vital information, including the correct bus stop. The district launched an investigation into how the bus driver, who we're told didn't stay even after learning the child had been hit, made such a critical mistake.
In a statement, Linda Cobbe, a spokesperson for the district, told FOX 13:
"Pasco County Schools has a responsibility to keep children safe from the time they get on a bus to the time that they leave a bus. Pasco County Schools is investigating the concern that the injured student was in a location other than his designated bus stop. The driver of the bus in question is currently on administrative leave. The district and our Transportation Department take the safety of students seriously and have several safeguards in place for student safety on and off of school buses. Drivers are trained in these procedures annually. Part of the investigation will look at whether these safeguards were followed. Our thoughts are with the student and his family, and we hope that he recovers fully and returns to school as soon as possible."
Joseph's mother is hopeful someone will come forward with information about the hit-and-run driver.
"To make sure that another baby doesn't get hurt, I want him gone. I want him locked up," she said.
Anyone with information about the driver or the pickup truck involved in the crash should contact FHP.