According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the 24-year-old driver in a Chattanooga, Tennessee school bus wreck that killed six children declined to be interviewed by federal crash investigators on the advice of his attorney.
Amanda Dunn said she expects her client to plead not guilty if a grand jury indicts him for vehicular homicide.
The NTSB filed subpoenas to obtain Walker’s medical and mental health history, as well as his cellphone records and employment details from his second job with Amazon. The agency’s final report is expected to be presented within 18 months.
The Hamilton County school district last week released correspondence from students, parents and administrators that raised concerns about Walker’s behavior behind the wheel of the bus in the weeks before the crash.
Walker was working for school bus contactor Durham School Services, which is paying his legal bills as well as hospital bills for the injured and the funeral costs for the six children who died.
Durham CEO David A. Duke said the company is cooperating with law enforcement and federal crash investigators. However, despite the company hiring Walker’s attorney, it said is otherwise not participating in his defense.
“We are not privy to the advice that the counsel is providing Mr. Walker,” Durham spokeswoman Molly Hart said.
Duke said in a video that the company is making multimillion-dollar safety changes after the crash, such as putting in place a nationwide complaint management system where teachers and administrators can report specific issues with drivers and buses. It will be online immediately in Chattanooga and across the country for Durham contracts by the end of next year.
The company will also install cameras in all buses that record the driver and other traffic on the road to observe behaviors. They’ll be installed on Chattanooga buses by the end of the year and on all company buses within the next two years.
A high school student was robbed of his Air Jordan Series 10 shoes after he got off his school bus, according to Richmond Police.
The robbers, described by police as young adults, exited a white van that was positioned behind the school bus and threatened to beat up the student if he did not take off his shoes and hand them over.
The student complied and the robbers got away. The mother of the student said she is concerned with the hub school bus system Richmond Schools put into place this year as a money-saving move. The mother said she believes the distance her son must walk puts him at an unnecessary risk. Under this new system, students in city neighborhoods meet up at a centralized hub, sometimes more than a mile from home, then get on a bus to go to school.
Later that same afternoon, another student was robbed at another school bus stop, with the perpetrators making off with the teenager’s cell phone and a bag.
Police are investigating both crimes, but at this time they said they don’t believe the two crimes are related.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration during a conference in Washington, D.C. last week with other top transportation officials and safety experts renewed its recommendation to put lap-shoulder seat belts on all school buses. But, this isn’t the first time the vow has been made, especially after children die on a school bus.
Every time a deadly school bus crash happens, there is a renewed push for legislation to put seat belts on school buses, but NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind said most of the time the bills fall flat.
In 2016, Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Hawaii, Maryland, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, West Virginia and Massachusetts introduced seat belt legislation, but not one of them enacted it.
“This is a shared responsibility,” Rosekind said. “This doesn’t get done unless everyone is at the table, it’s inclusive and everyone is working toward the same target.”
Rob Maloy, of the National Transportation Safety Board, added that while school buses remain the safest the way to transport children, “We can do better if we get seat belts on there.”
Phoenix authorities said a 14-year-old boy bolted off his school bus and ran to rescue his dog from his family home that was on fire.
Fire Capt. Aaron Ernsberger said the boy had just gotten on the school bus at a nearby stop after he saw smoke coming from his home.
Ernsberger added the boy went to the front door and opened it, but could not enter because of flames and heat. He did manage to free his family’s 9-year-old pit bull out the back door.
“He was smart enough to not go inside, thank God,” Ernsberger said, otherwise, “he would not be with us today.”
The home sustained major smoke and fire damage. “All of their belongings are a total loss,” Ernsberger said.
No injuries were reported. The cause of the fire wasn’t immediately known.