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Driver in Holiday bus crash was always helping others

HOLIDAY — Right before the accident, Tina Marie Hawkins was doing what she always did: helping people.

On Wednesday morning, she took a sick friend's daughter to school. On her way back on Anclote Boulevard, her car veered into oncoming traffic and crashed head-on into a school bus carrying 38 students headed to Paul R. Smith Middle School.

The bus driver, 44-year-old Jennie Esther Smith of Port Richey, remains in serious condition at St. Joseph's Hospital, said Pasco schools spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli.

Seventeen students were treated for minor injuries at area hospitals and released Wednesday, Romagnoli said.

Hawkins, 41, was taken to Bayfront Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

Her husband thinks she must have had a heart attack. She'd been on medication for high blood pressure and a rapid heart beat, said Steve Hawkins, her husband of a decade. They have a 10-year-old daughter, Cynthia, and live in Holiday.

"She's one of the rarest people out there — she doesn't speed, she's never had a ticket, she's never had an accident," Hawkins said of his wife.

"I always tell people, 'If you're in a hurry, don't ask her to drive you.' "

Her driving record was confirmed by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. It was spotless.

Steve Hawkins said his wife was exceptional — one of those people others could count on when they needed help. He said she worked as a pharmacy tech before she became a stay-at-home mom. She kept in touch with the elderly customers, years later, and still brought them food and checked on them. She lost her mother to cancer 15 years ago. She called her grandparents in Massachusetts every day.

Steve Hawkins said his wife always told him, "You just have to do what you can for today and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. If somebody needs help, they need it now."

She was like that with people and animals, leaving her husband and daughter with two cats, two hamsters and a dog.

"That's just how she is," Steve Hawkins said.

He hasn't decided yet on funeral arrangements.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Driver in Holiday bus crash was always helping others 02/03/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 3, 2011 8:57pm]
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