You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone

Candy Olson has been pretty cheeky about how exactly she heard about the death of Isabella Herrera.

A special needs student, Isabella Herrera died from respiratory distress on January 26, 2012 that began on a School Bus. The aide and bus driver failed to call 911 or seek assistance at the pediatric clinic that they were parked in front of. Candy Olson was chair of the school board at that time. The event went virtually unreported to the public for 9 months until it was revealed after the death a second special needs student Jenny Caballero. Candy is the only board member that has ever admitted knowing about the tragedy soon after it happened. It has never been clear why (or if?) the Chair of the school board did not tell the other board members about Isabella Herrera’s tragic death such that appropriate measures could be taken in training and procedures to make sure that other deaths did not occur. One would think that she had a duty to tell them.

At the December 11, 2012 school board meeting Former Chairwoman Candy Olson revealed for the first time that she was not told by anyone on staff about Bella's death. She said she heard about it either at a school or in the community somewhere. Pretty cagey; she doesn’t recall exactly how she heard about this critical event.

We submit for your approval that both Superintendent Elia and then School Board Chair Candy Olson heard about it from the Sheriff’s Office on January 26, 2012 at the “Battle of the Belts” award ceremony. This is the Sheriff’s Office that also did not bother to report this tragedy to the public even in their own news releases.

The “Battle of the Belts” initiative consists of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office working with Hillsborough County Schools to increase safety belt use and awareness by teenage drivers and passengers. In 2012 the Battle of the belts ceremony occurred January 26, 2012 beginning at 9:30 a.m and lasted about an hour. Isabella Herrera was pronounced dead at 10:06 a.m. on January 26, 2012. 

There is a video of this ‘Battle of the Belts’ awards ceremony on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVN_tzwv064.  You can see that the Sheriff’s office was present in force at this awards ceremony. If the program began at 9:30 and you advance 36 minutes you would then be at 10:06- the moment that Isabella Herrera passed away and you will see Superintendent Elia thank Chair Candy Olson for being present at this ceremony.

It is both chilling and reassuring to think that there is a video record that coincides precisely with the passing of Isabella Herrera of the three parties who probably did the most to do the least about taking action, arguably leading to the second death of Special needs student Jenny Caballero 9 months later for lack of updated training and procedures. And in this video record The Superintendent is on stage identifying Chair Candy Olson’s whereabouts in the company of the Sheriff’s Office at the very moment that Isabella was pronounced dead. Candy Olson will later be unable to recall how she heard about Isabella’s death.

I imagine that they all had a lot to talk about that day since Isabella Herrera had been taken to the hospital the day before and then was pronounced dead at 10:06 a.m., on January 26, 2012.

 If you then advance the video to 57 minutes near the end you will see Colonel Greg Brown Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office returning from off stage and announce: “As you saw, I just walked off and I wanted to check on something.” He then proceeds to tell how another individual that was not wearing a seat belt died during the course of the ceremony. However, he stated that he walked off because he “wanted to check on something”; most likely the status of Isabella Herrera.

Listen closely and note that at the end Colonel Greg Brown actually appears to say: "Its currently going on on the EAST side of our county...another individual lost HER life and never put a seat belt on". The Problem with this is that the 12-027 news release incident he should be referring to (see below) occurred on the WEST side of the county near Citrus Park and the fatality was a MAN. It appears that Colonel Greg Brown was having a freudian slip and was revealing that he had been updated on the death of Bella Herrera when he "walked off… to check on something." The Bella Herrera fatality occurred on the EAST side of our county in Riverview.

Keep in mind that the Sheriff’s office curiously never issued a “news release” for the Herrera bus incident that they responded too contributing to it remaining virtually unreported to the public for 9 months until it was revealed after the death a second special needs student Jenny Caballero.

 Anyone can go to the Sheriff’s office website and look up news releases (http://www.hcso.tampa.fl.us/SpecialPages/Search.aspx?searchtext=11-043&searchmode=anyword). You can search by anyword or even the release number. The Sheriff’s office puts out News releases on all manner of topics- traffic incidents, crimes, public awareness, etc.

You can see that on January 26, 2012 the Sheriff’s office posted a news release about a driver who suffered fatal injuries (Release Number 12-027). But oddly enough the Sheriff’s office, who also responded to the Herrera incident on January 25, 2012, never issued any “News Release” for Bella Herrera.

However Release Number 11-043 is titled ‘School Aide Charged with Child Neglect’ and says that on December 15, 2011 a special needs student was left on a bus at Valrico Elementary. The actions of the defendant were negligent in leaving the victim on the bus and for not assuring the victim was taken off the bus at her scheduled stop.

The ‘News Release’ says “Deputies investigated the incident and after consulting with the State Attorney's Office a warrant was issued for School Aide. The child was not injured, but was taken to a local hospital to (be) medically cleared.”

Apparently, the Sheriff’s office did not feel that a child dying as the result of a school bus ride warranted a press release so that the public would know about it. And apparently the state attorney considers an uninjured child left on a bus to be negligence, but does not consider the death of a child left unattended resulting from a failure to seek prompt medical attention to be negligent. Or the subsequent failure of Superintendent Elia and school board Chair Olson to take action to be negligence.

Perhaps the Sheriff’s office and the State Attorney were being negligent? You might want to write the Sheriff’s Office and ask why they never posted a news release about this at piooffice@hcso.tampa.fl.us. When you do, you might want to copy and/or write the State Attorney (ober_m@sao13th.com) and ask why the Herrera tragedy is not negligence.

Truth is stranger than fiction. Don’t forget to write the Sheriff and the State Attorney. The next school Board meetings are January 28 at 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. I hope you have something to say about this. Please govern yourselves accordingly. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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