A community is in mourning and a school bus driver is in jail after a tragic accident in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Police have arrested Johnthony Walker, 24, on multiple counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving. Walker was the driver of a school bus that witnesses say was speeding so fast that it turned on its side and wrapped around a tree. On board were 35 students from Woodmore Elementary School, who ranged from kindergartners to fifth grade. One student told media, “He was going real fast and he hit a garbage bag and we then hit a mailbox, then we flipped over and hit a tree real hard.”
When police arrived at the scene, children were crawling out of the emergency roof escape, but many more were trapped inside the bus and had to be rescued. Police have stated that five children were dead at the accident scene and another 23 suffered various injuries. According to Kirk Kelly, interim superintendent for Hamilton County Schools the dead students were three fourth-graders at Woodmore Elementary School, one first-grader and one kindergartner. At least 12 students were hospitalized with six in the intensive care unit, and another six are in regular rooms at the hospital
Residents of the city were shocked when news spread of the accident and many went to the hospital hoping to donate blood to the injured children. A National Transportation Safety Board team has been dispatched to investigate the accident. Chairman Christopher Hart of the NTSB told reporters that speed is being investigated very strongly as a factor in the crash. He also stated that driving conditions were clear and dry and no other vehicles were involved in the crash.
Walker could face additional charges as the investigation continues and the injured children attempt to recover. It is being reported that the school where the children attended will be open with grief counselors available for students and staff.