Tennessee school bus crash probe finds no alcohol, drugs in Johnthony Walker’s blood – CBS News
Chattanooga police Sgt. Austin Garrett told reporters Wednesday that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation tested 24-year-old Johnthony Walker’s blood.
Five children died in Monday’s crash. Six remain hospitalized.
Walker was arrested and charged with five counts of vehicular homicide. Police said Walker was driving well over the posted 30 mph limit when he lost control of the bus, which was not equipped with seat belts.
He was jailed, with bail set at $107,500, on charges that also included reckless driving and reckless endangerment. It was not immediately clear whether he had a lawyer. A court appearance is scheduled Nov. 29.
Garrett also told reporters that no one who investigators have spoken to could verify whether Walker told the children “Are y’all ready to die?” before the crash as the mother of three kids who were aboard the bus told CBS News and other media.
“My daughter said right before the bus flipped that he was speeding around the curve and asked them ‘Are y’all ready to die,’” Jasmine Mateen told CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann. Mateen’s 6-year-old daughter was killed.
Garrett told reporters that investigators haven’t spoken with all of the witnesses and that the investigation was ongoing.
Walker’s mother, Gwenevere Cook, said she spoke with her son after the crash, reports CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez.
“He said, ‘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,’” she said.
Media outlets have reported parents complained before the crash about the bus speeding through the neighborhood. The Hamilton County School Board has repeatedly refused to confirm whether it received complaints involving Walker, who was employed by an outside bus contractor, Durham School Services.
NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said during a press conference on Wednesday that Tally Road, where the crash was, was not on the designated route for that school bus. Hart said they are exploring whether or not the driver had gone this way before, and why he took this route.
Hart said they are aware that the driver had another job, working seasonally for Amazon. He said they are looking into whether that contributed to driver fatigue.
Hart also said the cameras were badly damaged in the crash, which has delayed looking at surveillance video.
Three of the children killed were in fourth grade, one was in first grade and another in kindergarten, said Kirk Kelly, interim superintendent of Hamilton County schools. Their families were notified, but their names were not released. All the children went to Woodmore Elementary School.
Reeling from the tragedy, Chattanoogans lined up to donate blood and created a memorial of flowers and stuffed toys at the crash scene.
“The most unnatural thing 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.”