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2016 Chattanooga school bus crash

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In the afternoon of November 21, 2016, a school bus in Chattanooga, Tennessee, rolled over onto its passenger side and became wrapped around a tree. There were 6 fatalities and 23 injuries.

Chattanooga school bus crash
Chattanooga, TN (31070581571).jpg
NTSB investigators and the damaged bus
DateNovember 21, 2016
LocationChattanooga, Tennessee
BusSchool bus
Deaths6 (1 later)
Injuries23 (6 critical)

Coordinates: 35°01′27″N 85°14′05″W / 35.02417°N 85.23472°W / 35.02417; -85.23472



The incident took place in the city's Brainerd neighborhood on Talley Road, which officials described as a "narrow, winding road". The bus, operated by Durham School Services,[1] was transporting children from Woodmore Elementary School.[2][3] The timeline of the events leading up to, and through the crash were documented by cameras within the bus.[4]

The driver reportedly lost control of the bus and caused it to strike a pole and then a tree and flip over.[5] The affidavit stated that "Mr. Walker lost control of the bus and swerved off of the roadway to the right, striking an elevated driveway and mailbox, swerved to the left and began to overturn, striking a telephone pole and a tree."[6]

Authorities received a call about the crash just before 3:30 pm and first responders worked the scene for many hours to remove all of the victims from the bus.[1] The rescue effort took more than two hours, even though the last child was removed from the bus around 4:30 pm.[7]

The bus was transporting thirty-seven children. Twenty-three children were hospitalized, six of them in critical condition.Five of the children died at the scene of the crash. A sixth child died two days later.[1][2][8] Of the deceased they were three fourth-graders, a third-grader, a first-grader and a kindergartner[9], none of which were older than 10-years-old.[10]


Identification of victims was hampered by many of the children being too young to know their parents names or phone numbers, many referred to their parents with informal names such as "Mama" and did not know their names spelling or birth dates. The children also did not have any form of identification with them when they arrived at the hospital and all were wearing school uniforms when they were admitted. Photographs provided by parents in the waiting room, or taken of the child and shown to teachers was used to identify the students admitted into the hospital.[11]

Support was seen throughout the community and in other states. The NFL Tennessee Titans donated $25,000 to the The Woodmore Fund, which benefits the families affected by the crash and wore "W.E.S" decals on their helmets in tribute to the students.[6] Lines were seen at Blood Assurance in Chattanooga, with staff fast tracking donors with blood type O negative and had extended their hours at three locations to better serve donors.[12] Donations of teddy bears, money and ordered pizzas to the Children's Hospital at Erlanger were also seen.[6]

Governor Bill Haslam issued a statement that night offering his thoughts and prayers to the families involved as did David W. Purkey with the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.[7]


The cause of the crash is under investigation, but officials believe that the speed of the bus might have been a contributing factor. On the day after the crash, a spokesman for the Chattanooga police department reported that drugs and alcohol were not factors. According to CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann, the mother of three children on the bus, including one who died, stated that her surviving children told her that Walker asked if they were "ready to die" immediately before the crash. Chattanooga police disputed the accuracy of this claim.[8][13]

Chattanooga Officers testified during the 2016 hearing that the school bus traveled between 48 and 52 mph, in a 30 mph zone. Students had previously complained about Walker's quality of driving and the private company that he was employed under, Durham School Services, had a history of traffic accidents in Tennessee.[14]


Johnthony K. Walker was identified as the driver of the school bus and had been issued his commercial drivers license of April 2016. He had been in a previous accident in September 2016 when he drove around a blind curve in a residential area and failed to yield to a right of way and sideswiped another vehicle.[6]

Legal proceedingsEdit

Walker was arrested and charged with six counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving.[2][15] On March 1, 2018, Walker was convicted of six counts of criminally negligent homicide, 11 counts of reckless aggravated assault, seven counts of assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving and using his phone.[16] In addition a Hamilton County Criminal Court jury convicted Walker of lesser charges for the crash. He was sentenced to four years in prison, but went free on bail pending an appeal.

In June 2018, while still free on bail pending an appeal of the bus crash charges, Walker was arrested for the statutory rape[17]of a 14-year-old girl at a home where he was staying on multiple[clarification needed] occasions.[18] Officers stated during testimony that Walker admitted to having sex with the girl in the homes family room, a total of five times and that he believed it to be a consensual relationship but it was "repulsive" upon looking back.[19] He was indicted on eight counts of aggravated statutory rape and one count of sexual exploitation of a minor after a grand jury returned the indictments in March 2019.[20]

Additional legal proceedingsEdit

A lawsuit was filed on November 23, 2016 on behalf of a deceased victims parent and alleged that the driver was negligent and careless in his driving. It also targeted Durham School Serives and alleged that it did not have policies and procedures in place to ensure that all school bus drivers were properly hired, training, supervised, investigated and disciplined.[21] On November 29, 2016 a second lawsuit was filed by an injured child's parent against Walker and Durham School Services, and alleged the child suffered serious "psychological and emotional injuries" and were seeking damages for medical expenses.[22]

On December 5, 2016 a third lawsuit was filed on behalf of an injured student who suffered a severe traumatic brain injury as a result of the crash. In addition to naming Walker, and the Durham School Services it also names National Express LLC which is the parent company of Durham School Services.[5] Two more lawsuits were filed on December 7, 2016 against all three groups on behalf of two injured students, and allege that Walker was driving negligently and that the injuries the children sustained will be costly and potentially permanent.[23]


  1. ^ a b c Sterling, Joe; Simon, Darran (November 21, 2016). "6 dead in Tennessee school bus crash". Cable News Network. Retrieved November 22, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Hayden, Michael Edison; Gallagher, J.J.; Liddy, Tom; Cook, Jeffrey (November 22, 2016). "Kids Who Died in Chattanooga School Bus Crash Include 3 Fourth-Graders". ABC News Internet Ventures. Retrieved November 22, 2016.
  3. ^ Nicholson, Ken. "Driver charged in deadly Talley Road school bus crash". WRCB-TV. Retrieved November 22, 2016.
  4. ^ News, A. B. C. "Driver seen on video with cellphone before deadly 2016 bus crash: Prosecutors". ABC News. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  5. ^ a b WTVC (December 5, 2016). "Third lawsuit filed in deadly Woodmore Elementary school bus crash". WTVC. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d CNN, Holly Yan, Natisha Lance and Ray Sanchez. "Chattanooga bus crash: 6 children dead; Titans to help victims' families". CNN. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  7. ^ a b "4 girls, boy killed in bus crash; driver charged". KGTV. November 22, 2016. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Associated Press (November 23, 2016). "Drugs, alcohol not involved in bus crash; 6th child dies". LIN Television. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
  9. ^ Carlson, Adam (November 22, 2016). "Witnesses Describe 'Big Boom' and 'Horror Story' at Fatal School Bus Crash Scene: Reports". Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  10. ^ Keating, Caitlin (November 23, 2016). "Pictured: The Children, No Older Than 10, Killed in Tennessee School Bus Crash". Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  11. ^ CNN, Holly Yan and Martin Savidge. "Confusion in the ER: School bus crash victims too young to ID themselves". CNN. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  12. ^ CNN, Alex Leininger. "Chattanooga residents rush to give blood after bus crash". CNN. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  13. ^ (staff writer) (November 22, 2016). "Driver Asked Kids 'Are You Ready to Die' Before Crashing Bus in Chattanooga". CBS Local Media. Retrieved November 23, 2016.
  14. ^ "Deadly Chattanooga school bus crash: What to know as trial gets underway". The Tennessean. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
  15. ^ (staff writer) (November 21, 2016). "Bus driver charged with vehicular manslaughter in Chattanooga bus crash". WBIR-TV. Retrieved November 22, 2016.
  16. ^ "Bus driver found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in crash that killed 6 kids". Retrieved June 16, 2018.
  17. ^ "Johnthony Walker Charged With Aggravated Rape". WTVF. June 15, 2018. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  18. ^ Gallegos, Anna Celia (June 14, 2018). "Johnthony K. Walker, driver in fatal Chattanooga bus crash, charged in rape in Nashville". Nashville Tennessean. Retrieved June 16, 2018.
  19. ^ Tamburin, Adam (July 26, 2018). "Chattanooga bus driver Johnthony Walker wrote apology to statutory rape victim, cop says". The Tennessean. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  20. ^ "Johnthony Walker indicted on eight counts of statutory rape". March 11, 2019. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  21. ^ Ellis, Taylor (November 23, 2016). "Lawsuit filed against Durham Bus Company, driver involved in Monday's crash". WTVC. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  22. ^ Ellis, Taylor (November 29, 2016). "Second lawsuit filed on behalf of Woodmore families". WTVC. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
  23. ^ WTVC (December 7, 2016). "Two more lawsuits filed on behalf of Woodmore Elementary bus crash victims". WTVC. Retrieved July 7, 2019.