Prosecutors said in court that school bus driver Johnthony Walker was on his phone immediately before and during the Chattanooga crash that killed six children in Nov. 2016, reports the Chattanooga Free Times Press.
Walker was long reported to have been off his route and speeding on a curving road when he ran the bus off the road and crashed it into a tree. On Tuesday, prosecutors said that his phone records show he took a four-minute call on his cell phone starting at 3:17 p.m. District Attorney Neal Pinkston pointed out that the first 911 call reporting the crash came at 3:20 p.m.
According to testimony from last December, Walker did have his phone out on the bus, but the phone records were only brought up on Tuesday. The National Transportation Safety Board investigation provided the district attorney with a draft of its final report, and those findings were shared with some of the crash victims’ families. That report found “Walker was on the phone at the time of the crash,” said Pinkston.
A vote to publicly reveal findings from the final NTSB report is tentatively planned for some time between April and June, according to a spokesman.
Amanda Dunn, Walker’s attorney, asked last week to withhold her client’s phone records, stating, “I don't see what value it adds bringing in phone calls prior to Nov. 21, 2016.”
Pinkston replied that a majority of the phone records would not be shown in court, but that he wanted to draw attention to contact with the individual that Walker was on the phone with when the crash happened. "What if defendant claims that phone call was random?" he questioned. “I think it would be important to show he's had prior conversations with that person who called at this particular time. At other times in this particular hour, he's on the phone, as well."
After the attorneys have a hearing on the phone records, it will be decided if they will be allowed into evidence, said Judge Don Poole. That hearing will be on Feb. 5.
Operating a mobile device while driving a school bus is one of the 34 charges Walker is facing. His trial will begin Feb. 27. It was ensured that all of the jurors are from out of town.