On Monday afternoon, an elementary school bus driver slammed his vehicle into a tree in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The impact flipped the bus over and tore it in half when the bus wrapped around the tree. At least five children died and 20 more were left injured (six of which were left in intensive care). CNN reports that the driver, Johnthony Walker, contacted his mother after the crash to say he’d been in a “drastic accident.” Walker was quickly arrested and charged with five counts of vehicular homicide.
In the above GMA video from Tuesday morning, parent Chris Harris — whose two children were passengers — reported that the driver sometimes behaved erratically by not always stopping in the correct locations, and he suspects that speed was factor in the accident: “There has been times where I’ve seen him going a little faster than he probably should be going.” One mother, whose three children were on the bus (one of them was among the dead), spoke to CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann. She says her two surviving children told her that the bus driver chillingly asked the children if they were “ready to die,” according to Strassmann:
“The mother says that in the moments before the crash, the bus driver said something to the effect of ‘Are you all ready to die?’ and then seconds later, the bus was on its side and five kids were killed.”
Authorities are still investigating the crash, although they evidently had enough cause to charge Walker in the deaths of five students. Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher says that all families were immediately notified, but the children who were killed or injured won’t be identified. Fletcher does state that driving conditions were good, and no other vehicles were involved in the wreckage. He added, “Speed is being investigated very, very strongly as a factor in this crash.” In addition, the department has secured a warrant to review the video and “black box” inside the school bus.
In the face of tragedy, the Chattanooga community is coming together, and CNN reports that local blood banks are nearly overwhelmed by hundreds of people “refusing to leave until they give blood.” Bekah Bell Instagrammed this photo as she waited in line.