NTSB: Chattanooga School Bus Crash Still Under Investigation

View from Talley Road looking south, showing the roadway's right curve and posted speed limit of 30 mph where school bus driver Johnthony Walker lost control. NTSB View from Talley Road looking south, showing the roadway's right curve and posted speed limit of 30 mph where school bus driver Johnthony Walker lost control.

The National Transportation Safety Board released additional details on the Nov. 21 school bus crash that killed six students and injured 31 others, but the probable cause won’t be determined for months.

The NTSB’s preliminary highway report issued on Tuesday disclosed more information than investigators have previously released, specifically on the condition of Talley Road, where the crash occurred, and the actions of the school bus driver, Johnthony Walker.

While report did not indicate the speed of the 2008 Thomas Built Buses 84-passenger school bus as it navigated the two-lane road, it did reveal that Walker encountered a series of curves with speed limit signs of 30 mph and under.

As Walker took the second curve, the NTSB said he lost control of the school bus, which left the roadway, colliding with a utility pole on the left side of the road. The bus then overturned onto its right side and hit a tree. This impact caused the bus roof to collapse inward.

The NTSB said it continues to analyze “multiple systems” that recorded and transmitted event-related data. Previously, the agency said these systems included video cameras and the engine control module.

The NTSB reiterated previous statements that the initial investigation showed that Walker had deviated from the normal route. The agency also reconfirmed that Walker held a current commercial driver’s license and medical certificate, tested negative for alcohol and drugs following the crash. Further, according to the NTSB, he had been involved in one reportable and one non-reportable school bus crash since August.

Walker is charged with five counts of vehicular homicide and one count each of reckless driving and reckless endangerment. A spokeswoman for District Attorney General Neal Pinkston's office told School Transportation News that an additional count of vehicular homicide will be added, and it is likely Walker faces other charges when the case goes to a grand jury in the next few weeks. He remains incarcerated in the Hamilton County Jail.

The spokeswoman added that the maximum sentence for one count of vehicular homicide is 12 years in prison, but by law Walker could receive a reduced sentence or even probation for those charges because he has no prior criminal history.

Last modified onTuesday, 31 January 2017 10:42