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Parents worry about motive in school bus thefts

10:08 AM, Aug 21, 2012   |    comments
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Image of school bus from Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is not of actual missing bus.

TAMPA, Florida - It's a BOLO that's hard to miss: two vehicles, yellowish orange in color, extra long, with the owner's name in black letters.

"They're very well marked, they have 'Hillsborough County Schools' on the side, and they have their school numbers," said Debbie Carter of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

School buses 4142 and 432 both disappeared over the weekend, reported missing Sunday just before 2 a.m.

"We're not sure if it was just kids out joyriding or someone who just decided they could do it," said Carter, who points out it's still unclear why anyone would steal two buses the day before school.

"I know with the RNC coming up that's the first thing that comes to mind, but at this point we're just investigating it as an auto theft."

Hillsborough school officials agree the most likely scenario is that the buses were stolen for cash, but they admit they haven't ruled out a much more sinister scenario.

"Just to know that two buses were stolen from this school... something is not right," said Miles Elementary School parent Lizzie Gary, who has two second graders who will be taking the bus Tuesday.

She wonders how parents would know the difference between a real bus driver and someone else. "I'm going to definitely be there in the morning to see who the bus driver is... I'll be asking questions."

The two buses together cost an estimated $30,000 and were last seen heading north on Interstate 75. School officials say the district has an extra 300 buses in their fleet, meaning there will be no shortage for students on the first day of school.

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