Tenn. bus driver charged in crash that killed 5 kids

Baltimore Sun - - NATION - By Jonathan Mat­tise

CHAT­TANOOGA, Tenn. — A school bus driver was be­hind bars Tues­day af­ter a crash killed five young­sters and plunged Chat­tanooga into mourn­ing over what the mayor called the “most un­nat­u­ral thing in the world” — a par­ent los­ing a child.

Po­lice said John­thony Walker, 24, was speed­ing along a nar­row, wind­ing road Mon­day af­ter­noon with 35 el­e­men­tary school stu­dents aboard when he wrapped the bus around a Walker tree

Walker was ar­rested and charged with five counts of ve­hic­u­lar homi­cide.

Chat­tanoogans lined up to do­nate blood, cre­ated a me­mo­rial of flow­ers and stuffed toys at the crash site and held a prayer vigil. Par­ents who send their chil­dren to school ev­ery day strug­gled to come to grips with the shock and break the news to their loved ones.

“It’s real tough," said Du­juan Butchee, whose daugh­ters, Jamya and Janesa, are eighth-graders who used to go to the same school as the young­sters killed in the wreck. “It’s tough on my kids be­cause they know some of the vic­tims as well.”

Po­lice said Walker was driv­ing well over the posted 30 mph limit when he lost con­trol of the bus. He was jailed on $107,500 bail for a court ap­pear­ance Nov. 29 on charges that also in­cluded reck­less driv­ing and reck­less en­dan­ger­ment.

Twelve chil­dren re­mained hos­pi­tal­ized Tues­day, six in in­ten­sive care, said Kirk Kelly, in­terim school su­per­in­ten­dent.

Three of the chil­dren killed were in fourth grade, one was in first grade and an­other in kinder­garten, Kelly said. Their fam­i­lies The school bus in­volved in Mon­day’s fa­tal crash is trans­ported from the site Tues­day. were no­ti­fied, but their names were not re­leased. All the chil­dren went to Wood­more El­e­men­tary.

“The­mostun­nat­u­ralth­ing in the world is for a par­ent to mourn the loss of a child,” Mayor Andy Berke said. “There are no words that can bring com­fort to a mother or a fa­ther. So today, the city is pray­ing for these fam­i­lies.”

Ar­manie Bryant, a Chat­tanooga mid­dle-schooler, said: “They didn’t get to live their lives. They didn’t get mar­ried. They didn’t have no kids, any­thing about their fu­ture.”

The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board sent a team to in­ves­ti­gate, and po­lice ob­tained a war­rant to re­move the bus’ black box, which con­tains data on the ve­hi­cle’s move­ments.

Walker had an ac­ci­dent in­volv­ing prop­erty dam­age in Septem­ber, and his li­cense was sus­pended for about a month in 2014 for fail­ure to show proof of in­sur­ance, ac­cord­ing to state commercial driver records. He ap­peared

MARK HUMPHREY/AP

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