Petersburg, Florida-- The wheels on the bus go round and round, but for a few Bay area buses, the wheels are falling off!
It's a serious and potentially dangerous situation for drivers on the Bay area roads and riders of local public buses in Pinellas County.
10 Investigates uncovered one third of the buses run by the Pinellas Transit Authority, PSTA, were overdue for preventative maintenance.
When we shared our findings with passengers of the PSTA buses, they told us they were very concerned.
10 Investigates discovered in the past four months PSTA reported tires falling off two buses while in route.
In April, one PSTA bus driver reported hearing "rubber or plastic hitting something" and then a "passenger reported seeing smoke" and "I heard a loud noise and the tire left the bus."
In July, another bus another tire fell off while making a turn in Clearwater.
After tires fell off of buses, 10 Investigates found that the PSTA was behind on bus inspections.
PSTA maintenance director Henry Lukasik is in charge of the nearly 200 buses on the road every day in Pinellas County and told us that safety is their number one priority.
Lukasik said, "We immediately looked into every single bus -- all of our 200 buses -- within one hour."
We asked Lukasik how the second incident could have happened, and he told us it was, "two separate instances."
10 Investigates uncovered those instances could have been prevented.
After combing through records, we verified one third of the public buses not having proper inspections and missing preventative maintenance required by the state.
When we asked if there is a problem with inspections, Lukasik admitted they have gotten behind on inspections.
After we started digging deeper, requesting fora list of buses that were out of compliance with maintenance inspections, PSTA directors tried covering up the problem.
We were told none of the buses were out of compliance, so there was no list.
However, we had already obtained the PSTA list of problem buses and showed it to them.
That's when directors sent an email to PSTA maintenance managers, calling for correction of what it called"a serious issue."
"We have — there was a backlog of work," Lukasik said.
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That backlog is leading to potentially dangerous situations for other drivers on the road and passengers who rely on the transportation daily.
After we started asking questions, PSTA went into overdrive and stopped everything else to make sure all the buses got the needed maintenance.
When we asked Lukasik how the problem happened and can the public be sure it won't happen again he said,just any other situation sometimes you get a backlog of work.
In other words, unless someone stays on the agency's case this might not be an isolated incident.