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Sixth Child Dies In Chattanooga School Bus Crash; Drugs, Alcohol Not Involved

Six elementary school students have died as a result of the bus crash on Monday. Toxicology reports show the 24-year-old school bus driver did not have drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the crash, officials said.

Last updated on November 23, 2016, at 8:52 p.m. ET

Posted on November 22, 2016, at 10:28 p.m. ET

Mark Humphrey / AP
Johnthony Walker

Johnthony Walker

The death toll in the Chattanooga, Tennessee, school bus crash rose to six children, police said Wednesday.

The bus driver, 24-year-old Johnthony Walker, has already been charged with five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving for the crash on Monday that involved at least 37 Woodmore Elementary School children. Chattanooga police said Wednesday an additional charge of vehicular homicide will be added, after a sixth child died.

The victims, who have not been officially identified, ranged from kindergarten to the fourth grade, and several others remained in intensive care.

While speed was cited as a factor in the crash, officials on Wednesday said Walker did not have alcohol or drugs in his system at the time. However, Chattanooga Sgt. Austin Garrett said the investigation remains ongoing, and that police have obtained warrants for all digital devices that were on the bus at the time.

Contrary to some reports, no one has told police that Walker asked the children on the bus if they were prepared to die before the crash, Garrett added, noting police have not yet spoken to all the witnesses.

Garrett also mentioned Walker's driving history, which he said includes a "minor wreck" that happened in September.

According to Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security records sent to BuzzFeed News, the crash happened when Walker was driving a bus and he took a turn too widely, colliding with another car. Walker was also in another collision in 2014, which led to his license being suspended for about a month after he failed to show proof of insurance.

Records show Walker obtained his Class B commercial driver's license, which allows a person to drive a bus, in April. And he was employed by Durham School Services as a driver.

David A. Duke, the CEO of Durham School Services, said in a statement that his team is "devastated by the accident" and are working with police and the Hamilton County School District to investigate the cause of the deadly crash. The statement did not respond to specific questions about Walker.

A Durham School Services spokesperson told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that it would pay for the funerals of the children who died in the crash.

On Wednesday, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher A. Hart also said that the school bus was not on the designated route when it crashed. Hart said it's unclear why Walker had driven down Talley Road, and investigators were looking into whether he had ever taken the route before.

NTSB also said the bus hit a mailbox on the right side of the street before swerving across the road and hitting a utility pole on the other side. Experts are in the process of examining recordings from three cameras that were inside and outside the bus, although some of them were damaged in the crash.

The NTSB said it is looking into the possibility that fatigue was a factor in the crash, as Walker was working another job at Amazon, which is "ramping up" for the holidays.

Handout / Reuters

Walker's mother told CNN that she hoped people would have compassion for her son and said he tried to pull children off the bus after it crashed into a tree and flipped over.

"'Mama, I love you. I have been in a drastic accident,'" Gwenevere Cook told the network her son said after the accident. "He texted me minutes later saying the kids are dead. He was trying to get (the children) off the bus – all the bodies were limp. There was blood everywhere."

Cook said her son has never been in trouble before and is the father of a 3-year-old.

"He is a marvelous son. For two years he worked two jobs. He's never been in trouble before," his mother said. "He is a respected young man, grew up in Chattanooga and is liked by everyone."

A child gets a hug as students wait for their rides home outside Woodmore Elementary School on Tuesday.
Mark Humphrey / AP

A child gets a hug as students wait for their rides home outside Woodmore Elementary School on Tuesday.

Kimberly Boling filed a lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of her 8-year-old son who was injured in the school bus crash against Walker and Durham School Services.

The lawsuit claims Walker was driving negligently and carelessly, causing the collision, according to WRCB-TV. The boy suffered injuries and watched his best friend die, causing pain and suffering that will require medical and other expenses, the suit adds.

Bruce Garner / AP

After crews worked to remove the bus on Tuesday, a small memorial emerged with stuffed animals and flowers.

On Wednesday, the NFL's Tennessee Titans announced they would donate $25,000 to the Woomore Fund that goes to the families of the victims.

Controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk told the Associated Press that the Titans were saddened by the news of the fatal bus crash and that the team will wear "W.E.S." decals on their helmets on Sunday when they play the Chicago Bears to honor the victims.

University of Tennessee football coach and several players also traveled to Chattanooga on Wednesday to visit victims of the crash in the hospital.

Flowers, signs and stuffed animals make up a makeshift memorial outside Woodmore Elementary School.
Mark Humphrey / AP

Flowers, signs and stuffed animals make up a makeshift memorial outside Woodmore Elementary School.

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