HENDRY COUNTY – Sylvester Humphrey may have retired in 1997, but he’s still making positive contributions to his community.
Mr. Humphrey was nominated for the Pioneer in Transportation Award by Kevin McCarthy, director of facilities, maintenance and transportation for Hendry County District Schools. According to McCarthy, he and Humphrey go way back.
“He was my physical education teacher in elementary school. That’s how long I’ve known Mr. Humphrey,” Mr. McCarthy recalls.
However, Mr. Humphrey is still active in the community as a volunteer as well as a member of several committees and of the library board. McCarthy says he nominated his former teacher because he made several contributions towards the safety of students in transportation.
Mr. McCarthy, who is also a volunteer firefighter, said Mr. Humphrey set up the first state school bus extrication exercise about 20 years ago – in other words, Mr. Humphrey was the first in Florida to establish a drill to get students out of a school bus in the event of an emergency.
“There was a severe wreck in which an ESE bus collided with a dump truck,” Mr. McCarthy said, adding the bus rolled over. “Back then, we didn’t have the exit windows and roof hatches that we have today.”
As a result, the windows had to be cut out so students could exit the bus – and that process took more than an hour.
Mr. Humphrey partnered with Blue Bird and brought in two to three buses, invited fire departments from different parts of Florida and held a two-day exercise discussing how to deal with crashes, how to get students out of buses and so on.
“Since then, they’ve added the emergency hatches and windows,” Mr. McCarthy said, adding that more counties followed suit in the state.
Mr. McCarthy says Florida often sees plenty of cool mornings and fog during the fall season. Mr. Humphrey organized a program through the sheriff’s department to get a sheriff to follow buses that drive down highways on days with low visibility for extra safety.
All of these initiatives by Mr. Humphrey have withstood the test of time – but he was still humbled when he found out he received the Pioneer in Transportation Award.
“I was really thrilled. I was pleased that the people I formerly worked with had thought of me in such a manner and regard me as something kind of special,” Mr. Humphrey said.