UPDATE: Driver Charged; at Least Six Dead in Chattanooga School Bus Crash

Chattanooga Fire Department personnel work the scene of a fatal elementary school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tenn., Monday, Nov. 21, 2016. (Bruce Garner/Chattanooga Fire Department via Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)


At least six children are dead and at least 23 have been taken to the hospital after a school bus crashed into a tree in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Monday. According to Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston, five children died at the scene and one died at the hospital after the deadly freak accident.

Via The Tennessean:

Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher said early reports from investigators indicate the bus hit a utility pole before flipping over and wrapping around a tree.

“Certainly speed is being investigated very, very strongly as a factor in this crash,” Fletcher said.

He said there were no obvious roadway conditions that appeared to have led to the crash and that police are still investigating whether alcohol played a role.

The accident took place in the Brainerd area of Chattanooga just three days before Thanksgiving.

In a news conference Monday, Assistant Chief Tracy Arnold said there were 35 Woodmore Elementary schoolchildren on the bus ranging from kindergarten through fifth grade. Police said they are questioning the bus driver, who is cooperating with authorities.

Rescue crews worked until after dark. Nearly an hour after the crash, two bloodied students were on stretchers in a nearby front yard, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported. Others who did not go to the hospital walked away clutching their parents’ hands.

Images posted on social media also showed interim Hamilton County Schools Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly racing to the scene of the crash.

Speaking to reporters Monday afternoon, Gov. Bill Haslam called the crash a “tragic event.”

Parents were heard crying and screaming, “That’s my baby!” as they arrived at the crash site:

A woman who lives nearby told CNN affiliate WDEF “the impact was so powerful it knocked her power out.”

“I just heard a big boom,” the woman said.

Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher called the crash scene “a complicated crime scene” that covered a large area.

“What has happened today is every public safety official’s absolute worst nightmare, but that is nothing in comparison to the nightmare that families and friends and our community is going through with this tragic loss to children in our community,” Fletcher said.

Hundreds of donors have given blood to help treat the crash victims, according to Mindy Quinn of Blood Assurance, a blood bank in the Chattanooga area. “We have had people who were refusing to leave until they give blood,” she said.

Quinn said the blood bank brought two bloodmobiles to one blood bank because of the huge response. She said they were fast-tracking O-negative donors and trying to schedule donors for the days ahead and into next week.
“The blood isn’t going to be needed for just tonight,” she said.
This is the second bus crash in recent days involving dozens of students in the state of Tennessee, according to The Tennessean.

Nearly two dozen Chester County Beta Club students on their way to a convention at Gaylord Opryland were injured Friday morning in a crash after a school bus flipped on Interstate 65 in Nashville.

Three were deemed critical injuries, according to Brian Haas, spokesman for Nashville Fire Department. Two of the most serious injuries were to arms of students in the bus. The third was a student who suffered a broken collarbone, Haas said.

None of the injuries were life-threatening, he said.

Interim Hamilton County Department of Education Superintendent Kirk Kelly said schools will be open on Tuesday and “Woodmore will have guidance counselors and other support available for students and staff.”

“This has been a great tragedy for us,” Kelly said. “We have suffered a great loss today … one of the worst days we’ve had in our school community.”

Tuesday, 11:08 EST: The Tennessee school bus driver involved in the deadly crash was arrested Monday night.

Via Fox News:

A Tennessee school bus driver was arrested and faces charges including vehicular homicide in a deadly crash that killed at least six people, including five children, police said in a news conference late Monday.

Chattanooga police Chief Fred Fletcher said that 24-year-old Johnthony Walker was charged with five counts of vehicular homicide. Walker was also charged with reckless driving and reckless endangerment.

Fletcher called the afternoon crash “every public safety professional’s worst nightmare.” He said earlier that investigators were looking at speed “very, very strongly” as a factor in the accident.

In a late night press conference, police confirmed that five children were killed at the scene of the crash and that one additional person died at the hospital. However, they did not confirm that the sixth victim was a student at the elementary school. In addition to the fatalities, six children were admitted to area hospitals for non-critical injuries and 20 others were treated and released.