A fatal school bus crash rocked the town of Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Monday afternoon. The bus was carrying 37 elementary school students (kindergarten to fifth grade) from Woodmore Elementary School in Hamilton County.
Around 3:20 p.m. local time, the bus rolled and crashed into a tree, nearly breaking in half. District Attorney Neil Pinkston initially told reporters that six children had died, but police later confirmed the number at five. In addition, 23 students were taken to nearby Erlanger Hospital.
— ABC News (@ABC) November 21, 2016
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Local reporters issued a call for blood donations almost immediately, and the city responded with overwhelming support. Mindy Quinn from Blood Assurance spoke to CNN:
“Hundreds and hundreds of donors flocked to give blood to treat crash victims. We have had people who were refusing to leave until they give blood.”
Blood Assurance even extended their business hours to accommodate the massive influx of donations.
At the crash site, local officials have been working with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in order to determine the cause of the crash — and the NTSB has confirmed that they expect the investigation to continue for another seven to ten days:
— ABC News (@ABC) November 19, 2016
Following the crash, Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher confirmed that speed was being considered as a factor in the accident, and that “a warrant has been issued to remove the informational box on the school bus and review the video.”
Fletcher also told reporters late Monday night that Johnthony Walker, the 24-year-old bus driver, had been arrested on multiple counts of reckless driving and vehicular homicide:
— ABC News (@ABC) November 22, 2016
According to Hamilton County Department of Education’s interim superintendent Kirk Kelly, three of the children who were killed were in fourth grade, one was in first grade, and the other was a kindergartner. Four of the five were girls.
Details have not been released regarding the extent of the injuries of the 23 students who were hospitalized following the crash, but Kelly also confirmed that six students still remain in intensive care.
Despite the fact that legislation has been introduced on several occasions to require state and federal background checks prior to hiring school bus drivers, the qualifications by which potential drivers are measured still vary greatly by state.
In the state of Tennessee, requirements are relatively simple — drivers must only have a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) with S (school bus) and P (passenger) endorsement.