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Five Students Are Dead in Tennessee Bus Crash

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A school bus driver who authorities say was speeding along a narrow, winding road when he wrapped his vehicle around a tree last week was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide in the deaths of five children.

Twelve remained hospitalized last week, six in intensive care, said Hamilton County Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly.

Three of the children killed were in 4th grade, one was in 1st grade, and another in kindergarten, Kelly said.The Nov. 21 wreck plunged the city of Chattanooga into mourning, with parents stricken by the news and people lining up to donate blood.

Police said Johnthony Walker, 24, was driving well over the 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.

Thirty-five Woodmore Elementary School students from kindergarten through 5th grade were aboard when the bus flipped onto its side and hit a tree. No other vehicle was involved.

Emergency crews needed almost two hours to get all the youngsters off the bus. Bloodied children lay on stretchers, while others walked away dazed with their parents. More than 20 injured students were taken to the hospital, police said.

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

The driver was employed by an outside bus contractor, Durham School Services. Walker appeared to have no criminal record in Tennessee, authorities said.

Durham CEO David A. Duke wrote on Twitter that the company was "devastated" by the accident and working with police and school officials to investigate.

The company has had 346 crashes over two years, including three resulting in deaths and 142 with injuries, federal figures show. During that period, it had 53 incidents involving unsafe driving violations.

Vol. 36, Issue 14, Page 4

Published in Print: November 30, 2016, as Five Students Are Dead in Tennessee Bus Crash
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