A school bus driver responsible for the deaths of six children in Chattanooga, Tennessee appeared in court yesterday in a probable cause hearing. Johnthony Walker, 24, 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. During the hearing, police stated that Walker was doing at least 50 mph in a 30 mph zone and when they arrived at the scene they were dealing with an accident where speed was a factor.
It was also revealed during the hearing that Walker was using his cellphone before the crash. Investigators are going through his cellphone records to uncover his phone activity while he was driving the children. Walker was the subject of numerous complaints from the school, parents and even some of the children on his route because of his behavior. School administrators noted that on multiple occasions he would speed out of the parking lot with kids on the bus. Even the children stated that Walker would curse at them and swerve so that the kids would bump their heads. He was accused at one point of drinking on the job but no evidence of alcohol or drugs was found in his system on the day of the crash.
The judge found there was enough evidence to send Walker’s case to a grand jury. Walker is facing multiple counts of vehicular homicide, reckless driving and reckless endangerment. His lawyer indicated that if a grand jury indicts her client, he will plead not guilty to the charges. Walker has been uncooperative with federal investigators of the NTSB and has so far refused to give any statements, on the advice of his lawyers. The NTSB plans to subpoena his medical and mental health records as part of their investigation. School bus accidents come under the purview of the National Transportation and Safety Board as well as local and state authorities.