HART bus driver comes forward in Progress Village hit-and-run

TAMPA — A 43-year-old Tampa man died Monday night after being struck by a hit-and-run driver near Progress Village.

And on Tuesday, authorities say they identified the culprit: a HART bus.

Bus driver Steven Rickert saw news reports about the crash when he woke up Tuesday and became concerned. He was in the area about the same time Eric A. Lewis was hit.

Though he didn't remember hitting anyone, Rickert, 57, called HART and met deputies at the bus.

Detectives found evidence that confirmed the bus indeed hit Lewis, the Sheriff's Office says. And in an interview, Rickert said that he had been traveling west on Fir Drive and turned north on 79th Street.

Reached at his home Tuesday, Rickert declined to comment.

Lewis' body was found near the intersection about 9 p.m. Monday. Deputies think he had been walking in the roadway when he was hit at a slow speed.

No charges have been filed. The crash is still under investigation, said sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon.

HART is conducting its own investigation, too, said HART spokeswoman Marcia Mejia.

Rickert took a drug and alcohol test, which is standard, Mejia said. He'll be suspended without pay pending those results.

He has worked as a HART driver since May 2006 and has been in two accidents that HART considered preventable.

Records show Rickert has not faced criminal charges in Florida.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

HART bus driver comes forward in Progress Village hit-and-run 02/21/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 12:29am]

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