Chattanooga, Tennessee is in mourning today after a school bus crash killed at least six children. Officials reported that frantic parents arrived at the scene of the crash after a school bus had overturned and smashed into a tree. According to the New York Times, the school bus had 35 children from Woodmore Elementary School onboard when the fatal crash occurred. In the aftermath of the horrible accident, it has been revealed that six of the fifth grade and younger students are confirmed dead. A further 23 children were taken to hospital in Chattanooga.
Last night, Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher said that a school bus crash was every emergency officials “worst nightmare.” Last night Fletcher would only say that “multiple children” were killed because rescuers were still working at the scene and further fatalities could not be discounted. Emergency officials worked for “many hours” to remove all the children from the wreckage of the school bus.
At the time of the bus crash, the weather was clear and dry and no other vehicle was involved. Police Chief Fletcher indicated that the bus may have been traveling at high speed and that this was a major part of the police investigation. He added his sympathy for the children, their families and anyone affected by the tragedy. The impact of the accident is something that is sure to be felt very deeply by anyone connected with Chattanooga’s Woodmore Elementary School.
“Certainly, speed is being investigated very, very strongly as a factor in this crash.
“A warrant has been issued to remove the informational box on the school bus and review the video. Taking care of the children that are injured is our No. 1 priority. Taking care of the families who are looking for, caring for and grieving for children is our second priority.
“Our thoughts, our prayers and all of our efforts are with the families of these children and others impacted by this tragedy.”
Bus Driver Named As Johnthony Walker
In the aftermath of the school bus crash, police said the bus driver is cooperative and talking to investigators. It appears that the police investigation has moved quickly as police have now named the bus driver as 24-year-old Johnthony Walker.
According to the Times Free Press, Mr. Walker has been arrested and charged with five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving. Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher added that Walker may face additional charges in coming days.
The Chattanooga Fire Department took several hours to remove all the victims who were trapped on the bus. Five children died at the scene and one died from injuries at a Chattanooga hospital. The local Education Department confirmed there were 37 Woodmore Elementary students on board the bus. The youngest was in kindergarten and the oldest in fifth grade.
As well as the six confirmed fatalities, a further six children were critically injured. A further six admitted to hospitals with less serious injuries, 20 children were able to return home immediately after treatment for minor injuries. As people gathered at the scene of the crash, some of the students were taken to hospital by family or members of the public. Police have asked anyone who gave a student a ride to the hospital to contact the Chattanooga Police Department.
Families of the students who died on the scene have been notified and will be supported through the tragedy. Fletcher said that not all families of the children on the bus have been reunited with their families at this point. Emergency officials are working to reunite all families as quickly as possible.
Interim Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Kirk Kelly is at the hospital with grieving families.
[Featured Image by Bruce Garner/Chattanooga Fire Department via Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP]