The president and CEO for the parent company of Durham School Services recorded an emotional apology for the fatal Nov. 21 crash near Chattanooga, Tennessee, that killed six students after the school bus driver lost control of the vehicle, which overturned and smashed into a tree.
In addition to the fatalities, five students are still in critical condition and a dozen other passengers were badly injured in the crash.
Police charged Durham school bus driver Johnthony Walker, 24, with six counts of vehicular homicide, reckless driving and reckless endangerment. The Chattanooga bus crash is the deadliest school bus crash since 1995, when a Fox River Grove school bus near Chicago was struck by an oncoming Metra Union Pacific train, killing seven students.
CEO David A. Duke delivered a tearful apology in a video that was posted to YouTube and the Durham home page on Nov. 23. In the video, Duke pledged support for the families affected by the crash, as well as a determination to assist investigators in finding out why the crash occurred.
“I really have struggled to get my mind around what happened here in Chattanooga,” Duke said. “I can’t fathom the anguish of the parents whose children were involved in this horrific accident, and it involved one of my company’s buses. Nothing I can say can take away the pain and grief for these families.”
“What I can say is that I’m deeply sorry for the children taken away from their parents with so much life before them," Duke added. "I can say that I’m filled with pain ... my responsibility now is to look for answers, why this tragedy occurred and answers for how we can make sure this never ever happens again.”
Duke said he directed his team to fully cooperate with the ongoing investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and local police. While Duke said he can’t elaborate on the investigation at this time, Durham and National Express will offer company support to the affected families.
“The families and communities have my prayers and my thoughts and my promise,” he added.
In a Nov. 25 letter to Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Kirk Kelly, Duke wrote that Durham will pay for all funeral expenses, travel-related expenses for family members, counseling for family members as well as parents, students and staff of Woodmore Elementary School; hospital expenses for students involved in teh bus crash and medical expenses related to the crash for up to six months from the date of hospital release.