Deadly Bus Crash Probe Focuses on Driver

A tarp covers a section of the wreckage the day after a school bus accident, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. AP / oug Strickland / Chattanooga Times Free Press

The investigation of the deadly school bus crash on Monday in Chattanooga that killed five children has turned its focus on the actions of the driver who has been criminally charged in connection with the crash.

Johnthony Walker, 24, was charged with vehicular homicide, reckless driving and reckless endangerment in the wreck and is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 29. authorities say was speeding along a narrow, winding Tennessee road when he wrapped his vehicle around a tree.

According to CBS News, Walker spoke to his mother just after the crash saying, “I love you mom, I’ve been in an accident on the bus’ and he said, ‘Mom there are kids dead, I hope it’s not my fault.”

He has no criminal record and results of tests for drugs and alcohol in his system are still pending, said CBS. Walker was hired by Durham School Services, which is working with investigators. Meanwhile the National Traffic Safety Board is also looking through the wreckage for clues and will examine the vehicle’s black box. The bus was not equipped with passenger seat belts, but the NTSB is checking to see if having them could have saved lives.

According to the Chatanooga Times Free Press, the grandmother of one of the children injured in the crash said her grandson had complained about Walker speeding before, but the school system did not take the complaints seriously. “He’s really kind of traumatized. This morning he was so afraid of what had happened,” Smith told WSMV.

Hamilton County schools spokesperson did not answer questions on previous complaints about Walker, instead deferring to Durham School Services. But records show that Durham has had 36 injury crashes in Tennessee since 2014. The company says it is “devastated” by what took place and that they are working with authorities.

But at least one parent is afraid to let his child ride school buses until he knows safety has improved.

Demetrius Jenkins told The Tennessean he was going to to let his 6-year-old son ride the bus starting next year. But the crash made him change his mind. “It’s not safe anymore,” he said. “It’s not safe.”

A tarp covers a section of the wreckage the day after a school bus accident, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Doug Strickland / Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP