At least five children killed in US school bus crash

Rescue officials at the scene of a school bus crash involving several fatalities in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Rescue officials at the scene of a school bus crash involving several fatalities in Chattanooga, Tennessee. PHOTO: REUTERS

(NYTIMES, AFP) – At least five children were killed on Monday (Nov 21)  in the US state of Tennessee  when a school bus carrying nearly three dozen elementary school students overturned and crashed into a tree, according to local officials.

About two dozen of the 35 Woodmore Elementary School students on the bus were taken to hospitals here after the accident in the eastern city of Chattanooga, which occurred before 3.30pm about a mile from the school, Chief Fred Fletcher of the Chattanooga Police Department said on Monday night.

The police arrested the bus driver, Johnthony Walker, 24, on Monday night and charged him with five counts of vehicular homicide and other counts, the police chief said.

“Our thoughts, our prayers and all of our efforts are with the families of these children and others impacted by this tragedy,” said Fletcher, who described the accident as a single-vehicle crash.

Information on the conditions of the children who were taken to hospitals was unavailable. An earlier report from the Hamilton County district attorney general’s office had said at least six children died.

Road conditions at the accident site, at Howard Avenue and Talley Road, appeared to be “clear and dry,” Fletcher said. He added that officials were investigating whether speed or alcohol had played a role in the crash.

“Certainly speed is being investigated very, very strongly,” he said, noting that the investigation was continuing. The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a team to investigate.

Emergency crews worked for hours to remove the children from the bus. Students who were not taken to the hospital walked away “looking dazed with cuts on their faces,” The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

On Monday night, more than a dozen cars filled the parking lot of Woodmore Elementary School, where school district employees had gathered to prepare the school for a day of grief.