At least five elementary school children lost their lives in Monday’s Chattanooga bus crash. On Tuesday, investigators into the horrific incident removed the mangled school bus from the residential street where the vehicle ended up literally wrapped around a tree. In addition to the lives lost, more than 20 other kids on the Chattanooga school bus were injured, some critically.
It took hours to extricate all of the children from the Chattanooga bus crash on Monday, reports NBC News. When all was said and done, investigators were left eyeing the bus driver, 24-year-old Johnthony Walker, who was not hurt in the crash. Initial reports following the catastrophic bus crash indicated that Walker was cooperating fully with law enforcement. Hours later, the news broke that Woodmore Elementary School bus driver Walker had been arrested and charged with multiple counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving.
Witnesses to the crash said that the Chattanooga school bus was traveling much faster than the posted 30 MPH speed limit when it lost control, skidded onto its side, and slid at a high rate of speed into a large tree, effectively cutting the bus in half. Witnesses have stated that the driver was “barreling” down the residential street. Further, police have said that they are are also investigating whether alcohol could have been a factor in the deadly Chattanooga bus crash.
Johnthony Walker is currently being held on a $107,500 bond, as investigators seek answers for a shocked and grieving community.
As the investigation progresses, more eyewitness accounts of the fateful moments that led to the deadly devastation are being brought to light, and some are incredibly disturbing. As Fox 13 Now reports, one mother who had three kids on the Chattanooga school bus when it crashed, including one child who didn’t survive, claims that the school bus driver asked his terrified child passengers if they were “ready to die” in the moments before at least five of them lost their lives.
“The mother says that in the moments before the crash, the bus driver said something to the effect of ‘Are you all ready to die?’ and then seconds later, the bus was on its side and five kids were killed.”
According to an arrest affidavit, Chattanooga school bus driver Johnthony Walker apparently lost control of the bus immediately before the deadly one-vehicle crash, likely due to the bus’ high rate of speed.
“Mr. Walker lost control of the bus and swerved off of the roadway to the right, striking an elevated driveway and mailbox, swerved to the left and began to overturn, striking a telephone pole and a tree.”
It is possible that Walker will face more charges as the investigation into the Chattanooga bus crash proceeds.
At least one person isn’t blaming Walker for the crash, though. His mother. As News 3 Las Vegas reports, Gwenevere Cook spoke to her son moments after the Chattanooga bus crash. Cook claims her son was devastated after the accident, and even goes one step further. According to Cook, her son is not at fault for the bus crash, the bus crash was “God’s will.”
“A word of comfort to whom it may concern. I’m being the mother of Johnthony Walker would love to say, my heart of love is going out for all that was in harm’s way of God’s will. Sending out mine and our condolences to every family that God touched yesterday in this horrible accident. And I am asking for compassion also for my son, Johnthony Walker.”
In addition to calling the accident “God’s will” and asking the public to have compassion for her son with regard to the Chattanooga bus crash, Gwenevere Cook is also reportedly seeking the services of bail bondsmen to secure her son’s release from custody. According to Cook, Walker is the father of a 3-year-old. It has also been widely reported that Walker had some issues with his driving record leading up to the fatal Chattanooga crash, including a bus accident in September where he was accused of veering into oncoming traffic.
Investigators desperately trying to determine the cause of the fatal Chattanooga bus crash have reportedly secured a warrant to review the school bus’ data recorders, which are said to include video footage, in order to piece together what happened on Monday afternoon.
The NTSB is also involved in the investigation into the Chattanooga bus crash, and on Tuesday, a team arrived on scene to begin their leg of the inquiry. It could take a year for the NTSB report to be completed, but Chairman Christopher Hart expressed his concerns and condolences following the devastating bus crash.
“We certainly send our condolences to the parents of those children. My daughter rides a school bus every day. I understand that. We will do everything we can to try to prevent this from happening again.”
In the hours immediately following the Chattanooga school bus tragedy, the local blood bank extended its operating hours and the line of donors stretched out the doors and up the street. Some people reported waiting hours in order to give blood. On Tuesday, the local school district made grief counselors available for students struggling to process Monday’s crash.
As multiple agencies continue their investigation, particularly reviewing the school bus’ data recorders, it is likely that more answers to the question of what happened will be available in upcoming days and weeks. It’s even possible that investigators will be able to determine precisely what driver Johnthony Walker said to the kids on the Chattanooga school bus immediately before it was involved in yesterday’s deadly crash.
[Featured Image by Hamilton County Jail]