A horrific bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee, has taken the lives of five children and injured many more, making it one of the deadliest school bus crashed in US history. Five kids died at the scene, and at least 23 others were taken to the hospital. The deceased included a kindergartner, 1st grader, and three 4th graders. Twelve remain hospitalized as of November 23rd, sic in intensive care. At least 35 children were on the bus at the time, ranging in ages from kindergarten to 5th grade. All were students from Woodmore Elementary School.
Investigators believe speed may have been a factor, and that the driver was going well above the posted speed of 35 miles per hour on the winding road and lost control. A student on the bus says they first struck a trash can, then a mailbox, before tipping over and smashing into a tree. Rescue crews were still working after dark to process the scene, and two bloody students could be seen on stretchers in the nearby front yard more than an hour after the crash.
The 24-year-old driver, Johnthony Walker has been charged with 5 counts of vehicular homicide. We’re not going to pile on and vilify him for this horrific accident, but since the crash several parents have come forward claiming they’ve thought the driver was driving a little too fast on other occasions. The lesson her is: don’t’ be afraid to speak up. I wonder if a talk from a concerned parent might have slowed him just enough to have prevented this accident.
Update: Since the crash, Hamilton County education officials confirmed they received multiple complaints about the bus driver in question, one from a parent, from a school behavior specialist, from the Woodmore Elementary school principle, and from children on the bus. The complaints alleged the drive sped, cursed at children, was heard telling the kids he didn’t care about them, and on one trip, “swerving and purposely trying to cause them to fall.” A note from a student that arrived on November 16 ominously stated that the driver goes so fast it feels “like the bus is going to flip over.”
It was also revealed that the narrow winding road where the crash occurred was not part of his normal rout. it is often noted that it typically requires multiple failures to produce a tragedy, and this story is a prime example.
- USA Today editorial, “Chattanooga Crash exposes gaps in school Bus Safety” Dec 8, 2016 page 7A