UPDATE: Sixth Child Dies; Three Remain Critical; Two in Fair Condition; 25 Others Released in Chattanooga Bus Crash

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Speed has continued to be the primary factor behind a deadly bus crash that killed six elementary school children and left five in extremely critical condition one day before the Chattanooga Tennessee School closed for Thanksgiving Day vacation.

Johnthony Walker, 24, has been charged with five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving. He is being held in lieu of $107,500.00 bond. he is likely to be charged with an additional count of vehicular homicide. 

The Monday crash, which sliced the bus in half down to the chassis, occurred on Talley Road, a curving country road, at approximately 3:30pm EST and was the only vehicle involved in the crash. Police have indicated Walker was driving at excessive speeds, clearly more than the 30mph posted limit and road conditions were not considered a factor. 

The medical conditions on the children in critical condition range from severe head, neck and spinal trauma. Names of the victims are being released by funeral providers and confirmed through family members. 

The children involved in the crash, were being transported home from Woodmere Elementary School, which where all they all attended. Woodmere houses kindergartners to fifth grades making the children ages five to ten.

Second Accident For Bus Driver

Walker has been the target of numerous complaints with one mother complaining repeatedly to the Board of Education, Durham School Services, the company who operates the buses, and the principal of the school that the children, one of whom died in the crash, were injured repeatedly when Walker drove them.

The complaints, in letters and phone calls reported in NBC.com were fromJasmine Mateen, and included multiple incidences of braking sharply so to cause the children to jerk forward and hit their heads, fear, intimidation, bullying and verbal abuse.

The principal went as far as to read the letter to Walker, in front of the children, who from all accounts shrugged his shoulders and said, "'So, I'd do it again."'

On the day of the crash, the same mother said two of her other daughters, both of whom sustained treatable injuries, said he had been speeding, jerking the steering wheel, and drinking on the job and ominously asked the children "'are you ready to die?"'.

The devastating and deadly crash is the second for Walker who had a property damage accident recently and records show his license had been suspended in 2014 for failure to show proof of insurance. Allegedly he has no other vehicle related accidents in Tennessee.

First Responders Arrive on the Scene

Chief of Chattanooga Police Fred Fletcher explain during a press conference posted on the micro-messaging platform Twitter the "a bus accident with multiple injuries is every public servants' worst nightmare."

First-responders which run the range of Fire, Police, EMS and medical officials "worked for many hours, using specialized tool and strategies to remove all children. Advanced technology used to process the scene. A warrant issued to remove black bus and to review the bus video or multiple video cameras," Fletcher added.

Officials described the scene as chaotic with 35 known victims, inside the bus, taking nearly two hours to extract the final victim from the vehicle.

An accident reenactment, shown on multiple media organizations, shows the bus traveling at a high rate of speed, swerving off the right side of the road, attempting to right itself, flipping, sliding on its side at a high rate of speed along the road, flipping again and slamming into a pole careening off the mailbox and driveway and slamming into a tree which sliced through the vehicle roof.

Surviving children are talking with media and have all said the driver walked away from the bus and "'just left us."' Walker's mother, Gwenevere Cook, confirmed her son had multiple communications with her after the crash explaining the initial crash and then the fatalities. She explained what had happened attributing the cause to "God's will."

Chief Fletcher has indicated more chargers may be brought against Walker as this case proceeds to the Grand Jury.  

Image courtesy of Chattanooga Fire Department posted on via Chattanooga Police Twitter. Chattanooga Fire Department/Handout Via Reuters.

This is a developing story.

 

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