TAMPA, Fla. — Family, friends, students and coworkers are grieving the loss of a beloved school bus driver. 

  • Hillsborough school bus driver dies on 1st day of school
  • Cynthia Gibson died on her way to work Monday
  • Beloved by co-workers, family and friends, Gibson drove buses for more than 30 years

According to the Hillsborough County School District, driver Cynthia Gibson died on her way to work Monday, which was the first day of school.  

She died in a crash driving to work. According to Plant City police, Gibson crashed into the back of a tractor trailer on Airport Road in Plant City early Monday. 

Gibson, known as Ms. Cherie, drove school buses in Hillsborough County for more than 30 years. She was set to retire after this school year. 

In addition to her three-plus decades driving buses, friends and family say she was a union rep for bus drivers, helped the homeless and at-risk kids and was active in her church. 

Family and friends that sang with Gibson in her church choir are still coming to terms with her loss. 

"We don't know when, we don't know where or whatever," said friend Rob Rice. "Because we call got our appointment you know. And we don't know when it's going to be you know.  

"That's why I tell people you better be ready you better get your life together because you don't know when God is coming and when he is going to take you away." 

Gibson was a sounding board for drivers with union issues but also a role model for new drivers. 

Jim Beekman, the school board's General Manager of Transportation, released a statement: 

There are days in our lives that we will always remember. Some for the joy we experienced and others for the sadness. Today is one that I and our Transportation Family of Hillsborough County Public Schools will remember for the sadness that it brought, the shocking realization of losing such a vibrant member of our family. Cynthia Gibson, known to many as Ms. Cherry, was tragically taken from us in an automobile accident on her way to work this morning. It was the first day of school and to her family she had shared it would be her last first day, she wanted to retire at the end of the year. 

Ms. Cherry began her career over 30 years ago with Hillsborough County Transportation and has touched thousands of lives in this community through her driving, her service to her church and most important to her, her beautiful family. She was a strong advocate for drivers and attendants understanding the importance they play every day in the lives of the children and parents in this community. When drivers needed a mentor, they would turn to her for guidance. When schools had some challenging students, she would step forward and work with those at-risk kids and made a difference. Her most rewarding role however, was grandmother to her beautiful grandkids.

Today marked my 36th school opening and to this day, I have never met a driver so unique and so full of passion for those around her. I truly lost a great friend today. Today, as in the days to come, our transportation family will do all we can to help her family through this time of sorrow. Countless folks have come forward today making their own pledge to be a better person, to know not to take any moment in life for granted and to express thanks for the impact that Ms. Cherry made in their life. She was a believer, she had the faith and her friends and family know she heard those beautiful words today, well done, my good and faithful servant.

Words will never capture how much she will be missed by those who knew her.