Driver charged in Chattanooga school bus crash that killed 5 children

by: Rikki Klaus Updated:

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - At least five students were killed in an elementary school bus crash in Chattanooga, according to officials.

Photos released by the Chattanooga Fire Department show the bus split in half by a tree. They said several patients had to be extricated from the bus after it crashed just before 3:30 p.m. No other cars were involved.

The fire department said at least 23 children were injured and taken to the hospital. The bus was carrying roughly 35 children from Woodmore Elementary School. 

[READ: Police say speed was likely a factor in bus crash that killed 5 students]

Late Monday night, police arrested school bus driver Johnthony Walker and charged him with five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless driving and endangerment.


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Three victims in the crash were in the 4th grade, one in first grade and one in kindergarten. 

Six surviving children are in the ICU and six are in the hospital. 

Chaplain Dwight Wilson told Channel 2's Rikki Klaus that he prayed with and comforted two families at Erlanger Children's Hospital Monday night.

"We ministered briefly to a family whose child died. A lot of anger in some cases," Wilson said. "Emotions will range high and low."

He said they wrapped their arms around each other and the family thanked him.

Wilson said they also comforted a family whose child survived the crash.

"They were crying their eyes out, but we thanked God for that one that lived," he said. "It's never easy. It's just never easy."

Chattanooga police say speed is being investigated "very, very strongly" as a factor in the crash.

"It is a complicated crime scene that covers a significant area. I can't tell you if there were any issues (with road conditions). There were none that jumped out. Right now it appears that one contributing factor may be speed but that is part of an active, ongoing investigation," CPD Chief Fred Fletcher said.

Fletcher said the federal government, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and several others have reached out to offer assistance. The NTSB tweeted Monday night that it will be investigating the crash on Tuesday.

A blood donation center in Chattanooga had a line out the door after asking for donations for crash victims.

The Chattanooga mayor said the number 5 "is a cursed number in our city." 

In 2015, a gunman unleashed a barrage of gunfire at two military facilities in Chattanooga, killing at least four Marines and wounding a soldier and a police officer, officials said. The shooter also was killed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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