Sixth child dies in Tennessee school bus crash

Firefighters and emergency personnel work to free school children from inside a crashed bus in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Monday afternoon. Initially five children were killed in the crash and another victim died Wednesday. Photo courtesy Chattanooga Fire Department

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Nov. 24 (UPI) — A sixth child has died from injuries in a school bus crash in Tennessee, police confirmed.

“Our hearts & prayers go out to the family,” the Chattanooga Police Department announced on Twitter late Wednesday afternoon.

None of the fatalities have been identified.

Five other children remain in hospitals Wednesday, and their identifies and conditions have not been revealed.

Three fourth-graders, a first-grader and a kindergartner died in the crash.

Families were making funeral plans or keeping vigil beside hospital beds one day before Thanksgiving.

Johnthony Walker, 24, was driving the bus with 37 children from Woodmore Elementary School on Monday afternoon. Authorities said he deviated from the normal route and the bus was going too fast when it hit a mailbox, a utility pole and then the tree. The speed limit was 30 mph.

Christopher Hart, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a news conference Wednesday that investigators had “ascertained that Talley Road was not on the designated route for that school bus.”

The driver has been charged with vehicular homicide as well as reckless endangerment and reckless driving

At a news conference, Chattanooga police Sgt. Austin Garrett said that blood tests conducted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation showed that Walker had no drugs or alcohol in his system.

Video from the front, back and side of the bus is being examined, he said.

Investigators haven’t spoken to any of the 31 surviving children on the bus, but Garrett said “we will in the future.”

The Hamilton County Board of Education confirmed in a statement Wednesday that it had received complaints recently about the “way he operated his bus.”

Walker received his commercial driver license in April and worked for the private Durham School Services company that contracted with Hamilton County schools. Walker had a school bus crash in September, according to Chattanooga police.

Also Wednesday, Gov. Bill Haslam said he promised a review of safety protocol to “make certain that we don’t have one more of these.”

“It’s time for us to step back, all of us — local school boards, the state — and look at the whole school bus process,” Haslam said outside Woodmore Elementary School. He said the “thorough review” would include everything “from how we hire drivers, to how we ensure safety of the equipment, to whether there’s seat belts on those buses.”


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