CHATTANOOGA Tenn. (WKRN) – Five children were killed in a tragic school bus crash in Chattanooga and at least 23 were taken to two nearby hospitals.
Chattanooga police chief Fred Fletcher confirmed the deaths Monday night and said the bus driver was arrested.
The crash happened about 3:30 p.m on Talley Road, not far from Woodmore Elementary School. The bus was transporting kids between kindergarten and fifth grade.
Chief Fletcher said the bus was the only vehicle involved in the crash. It ended up on its side and wrapped around a tree in a residential neighborhood.
It took emergency responders over two hours to rescue and pull the children from the bus “using a number of specialized tools, strategies, and tactics,” the chief reported.
Twenty-three students were taken to Children’s Hospital at Erlanger while one more was taken to another local hospital. It’s unclear how serious any of their injuries are at this time.
At least five students have died. Their names will not be released.
“Multiple children lost their lives today. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, their schools, their friends, and our entire community impacted by this tragedy,” Chief Fletcher said.
The bus driver was identified as Johnthony Walker, age 24. He has been charged with five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving.
“There may be more charges added as this case proceeds to the grand jury here in Hamilton County,” Fletcher told reporters.
Details on Walker’s history as a school bus driver weren’t immediately known.
While the cause of the remains under investigation, the police chief said earlier in the day they are “very, very strongly” investigating speed as the primary factor.
The police department has also issued a warrant to remove the black box from the school bus and review the video surveillance inside.
The National Transportation Safety Board announced they are responding to the crash site Tuesday morning to aid in the investigation.
Blood Assurance put out a call to anyone who can donate blood or platelets to help the victims, and many showed up to do so with some being told to make appoints for Tuesday. Those who can donate are asked to call 1-800-962-0628 to schedule an appointment. Click here to check a list of donor centers.
State, city leaders respond to tragic crash
Governor Bill Haslam released a statement that says, “Our thoughts and prayers are with victims of today’s tragic school bus crash in Chattanooga. It’s always a very sad situation when you have a school bus crash with children involved and we will do everything we can to assist the local authorities and the victims’ families.”
Col. Tracy Trott with the Tennessee Highway Patrol said on Twitter his “heart goes out to the families of the children that were killed & injured in the school bus crash in Chattanooga this evening.”
The Mayor of Chattanooga, Andy Burke, asked the public for prayers, saying, “Please pray for the families of those affected by this horrible accident.”
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry responded to Burke, saying, “Our hearts are with the city of Chattanooga this evening. Our thoughts and prayers are with you as you endure this tragedy.”