The driver who crashed his bus Monday and killed five Woodmore Elementary School children had no signs of alcohol or drugs in his system, the Chattanooga Police Department said, citing blood tests.
JohnthonyWalker, 24, has a bond of$107,500 after authorities charged him with five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving.
Sgt. AustinGarrett, a 24-year veteran and acting commander of the CPD’s Traffic Division, gave the briefing, and Chief Fred Fletcher also made comments at the Wednesday afternoon news conference.
When asked what prompted authorities to arrest Walker, they referred media to an affidavit of complaint, which said that-based on witness statements and physical evidence-Walker was driving at a high rate of speed on Talley Road, which is narrow and winding.
The complaint said that the speed was “well above the posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour.”
“Because of the reckless nature of Mr. Walker’s driving, combined with his very high speed and weaving within his lane, Mr. Walker was charged with five counts of vehicle homicide by reckless endangerment and reckless driving,” the report also said.
Garrett also said there is no evidence so far that the driver made any statement asking the children on the bus if they were ready to die, as reported by at least one national media outlet.
But they haven’t interviewed all witnesses, so they asked that anyone with information report it directly to authorities.
He also said that no one had been ejected from the bus, as some media reported.
Media asked authorities about any previous complaints against the bus driver, but the police said that is part of the investigation.
Hamilton County schools spokeswoman Amy Katcher also addressed questions about previous complaints.
“We are aware of some recent complaints lodged against Mr. Walker and the way he operated the bus,” she said in an email statement. “Per our protocols, these complaints were promptly forwarded to Durham School Services. As a direct employer of Mr. Walker, Durham (a private company which provides HCDE with nearly 200 school buses) managed all employee matters for him and the other drivers. Durham also maintains all personnel files for its employees.”
The Durham CEO released a video statement Wednesday and said he and his team are cooperating with the investigation. A spokeswoman said that’s all they can say at this time.
The CPD is conducting a criminal investigation while theNational Transportation Safety Board is conducting an administrative investigation.
Garrett said that the criminal investigation is ongoing and still in its early stages. Authorities are still going through physical and testimonial evidence.
CPD has gotten warrants for all data devices on the bus and has a team reviewing video that shows views from the front, back and sides,Garrett also said.
Officers have started interviews but haven’t talked to the children yet. It’s important to do that with people who are trained to work with children that have been through traumatic events, he said.
Watch the entire conference below.