The National Transportation Safety Board began its investigation into the fatal school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that at this report killed five students and sent at least 23 others to nearby hospitals with injuries.
School bus driver Johnthony Walker, 24, was arrested on five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving, the arrest report revealing that Walker was going “well above” the posted speed limit of 30 mph.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher Hart said in a press conference Tuesday that the school bus had just left Woodmore Elementary carrying 37 students, and had not yet dropped any of the children off along its route when the crash occurred.
He added that NTSB investigators, who are expected to be on site for at least a week, are looking at “the totality of the situation” to determine not only what happened in the crash, but why. Hart said investigators will not determine the cause of the crash while they are on scene.
“We will determine what caused this accident and we will make recommendations to try to prevent it from happening again,” he added.
Hart also said Walker had his commercial license for roughly seven months.
“We know that this driver only obtained his commercial license in April, so he has not been driving commercially for that long,” Hart said.
Most of the students involved in the crash are now at home recovering. Twelve children still remain in the hospital a day after the crash, six in critical condition and six in stable condition.
The bus was not equipped with seat belts. Hart said it was too soon to know if any occupant restraint system would have made a difference in the crash. He added that investigators are currently gathering video evidence taken from two cameras on the bus, one external-facing camera and one internal-facing camera.
The NTSB investigators will also be looking at the bus company, Durham School Services, the U.S. subsidiary of National Express Corporation, which owns and operates the bus under contract with the Hamilton County School system.
The National Association for Pupil Transportation and of the National School Transportation Association released a joint statement extending condolences to the families of the children who were killed and injured.
“The loss of even one life has a devastating impact on the professional women and men in school transportation who dedicate everything we do to keeping our nation’s children safe,” the statement said.
NAPT and NSTA added they will refrain from comment on the crash until the NTSB has completed its investigation. Instead, the associations are directing questions on the incident to federal officials in Washington, D.C., respective state directors of pupil transportation or federal, state and local officials in Tennessee.