CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WWJ/AP) – Parents of some of the children who survived a deadly school bus crash in Chattanooga are starting to shed some light on the moments leading up to the crash, which killed five kids and injured more than 20 others.

CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann spoke to a mother who had three children on the bus, one of whom died. The mother says that her other two children told her that just before the crash, the bus driver asked the children if they were ready to die.

“The mother says that in the moments before the crash, the bus driver said something to the effect of ‘Are you all ready to die?’ and then seconds later, the bus was on its side and five kids were killed,” said Strassmann.

The 24-year-old bus driver, Johnthony Walker, was arrested and charged with five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless driving and reckless endangerment.

Investigators are looking at speed “very, very strongly” as a factor in the crash, Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher said earlier. An arrest affidavit posted online by Chattanooga station WTVC says Walker was driving well above the posted 30 mph speed limit on a narrow, winding road. His bond was set at $107,500, according to the affidavit.

Police said overnight that five children were killed in the crash. Earlier Monday, Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston told news outlets the crash killed six. The Associated Press was not immediately able to reach officials Tuesday morning to explain the discrepancy.

Names of those killed have not yet been released; three were in the fourth grade, one was in first grade and one was in kindergarten.

Thirty-five students from kindergarten through fifth grade were on board when the bus flipped onto its side and wrapped around a tree. The bus was the only vehicle involved in the crash, but Fletcher said the scene was complicated and covered a significant area. He also said a warrant had been issued to remove the bus’ black box, which contains data about the vehicle’s movement.

Bloodied Woodmore Elementary School students lay on stretchers, while others walked away dazed with their parents after the crash, local news outlets reported. More than 20 children went to hospitals for their injuries, according to Fletcher.

Emergency responders needed almost two hours to get all the children off the bus.

Television cameras showed emergency vehicles still there late into the night, and the National Transportation Safety Board tweeted that a team would be heading to Chattanooga on Tuesday morning to investigate.

Craig Harris, a parent of two children who were on the bus, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” Tuesday morning he thought the bus driver sometimes drove too fast.

“There has been times where I’ve seen him going a little faster than he probably should be going,” Harris said.

Harris said his daughter and stepson were in shock and pain after the crash but were doing better Tuesday morning.

Television stations reported that people lined up to donate blood and some donors were asked to make appointments for Tuesday.

Kirk Kelly, interim superintendent for Hamilton County schools, said classes would be held Tuesday with counselors available for students and staff.

Fletcher said the families of the children who died had been notified but police would not release their names because they were juveniles.

“Our hearts go out, as well as the hearts of all these people behind me, to the families, the neighborhood, the school, for all the people involved in this, we assure you we are doing everything we can,” Fletcher said.

At the state Capitol in Nashville, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam called the crash “a tragic event” and offered assistance.

“We’re going to do everything we can to assist in any way,” Haslam said. “It’s a sad situation anytime there’s a school bus with children involved, which there is in this case.”

TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comments (20)
  1. This sounds made up to me. Hope you have a reliable source.

    1. I wouldn’t flat out say it’s made up, but def suspicious.

      Both kids share the same mom, and both lost their brother. Until another child of another family comes out with the same, they should treat it as unverified.

    2. Eli Hobbes says:

      The article quotes an unnamed mother as the source. Figure out which mother of the five lost one child and had two others on the bus that survived and you’ll have the source.

  2. Almost so hard to believe it may be true? Think again, this is far too common among the driving public, recklessness, disregard for others lives, mental instability by use of drugs, alcohol, medication and like recent railroad crashes, some problem with GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP. Too busy ‘takin care of their own business’ to care about other people.

  3. Pat Taylor says:

    t ticks me off to know that we ill have to foot the bills for his attorneys and the following appeals.

    1. Seriously, THAT’s your complaint?

      1. I was thinking the same thing. Little kids die and she’s worried about money.

  4. Now that the shock is passing, the anger is beginning. Why is the bond so low? This bond is lower than what they set for some pot smokers.

  5. Frank Burns says:

    Someone should check if by driving fast he was finishing the route too soon — or maybe the fast driving was built into the route, meaning to finish on time he was forced to drive at those speeds.

    1. No one is ever forced to drive dangerously.

  6. I didn’t think that bond was allowed when homicide was the charge…and this is 5 homicides. He should be charged for a bad hair day when this picture was taken. If a parent thought that he was driving too fast and didn’t report it, that is an improper choice on the parent’s part. I also don’t think that with the shock of the situation, that a child would make up a story about him asking the question about them being ready to die. Such insanity. Blessings for all the children, parents, families, and all involved in this heinous situation…and blessings for this driver who most likely will spend a major part of his life, if not all of it, imprisoned.

  7. What kind of moron would let a guy that looks like Walker drive a bus full of children?

    1. A moron that was threatened by Obama’s Department of Justice.

  8. Looking at his picture, I would not even hire him to clean my septic tank certainly not transport my kids.

  9. A terrible tragedy for all involved. Disgustingly, the media will continue their SOP of recklessly convicting the driver in the court of public opinion instead of allowing the driver his day in court. If the driver is convicted of the crimes with which he’s charged then he absolutely should pay the price. But speculation and a premature rush to judgement on the internet serves no one well and certainly won’t heal the injured nor bring those children back to their suffering families.

  10. I’ve read the local news, I’ve heard the interviews, I saw the ambulances and fire trucks speed past my house. CBS has yet to deliver fact based news. They seem to be i the business of fiction writing and trying to make an awful situation worse. As someone who lives in Chattanooga and someone who has been affected by this horrific tragedy, please report facts.

    1. Eli Hobbes says:

      Speaking as someone who doesn’t have access to your local news or didn’t see what you saw, what facts are you referring to? I am particularly curious to know what information that the LEO’s had to make a probable cause determination on the scene to arrest the driver. It must have been pretty compelling to act so fast.

      1. I’m referring to CBS’s long history of failure reporting information without facts, not just this instance. If you would like another example- CBS reported 12 children died because they used math rather than investigative skills. 35 on the bus minus 23 in the hospital must equal 12 deceased in their eyes. Now the bus driver asked the children if they were ready to die. Those are not facts.

        As for what made police act so quickly on an arrest- As far as I know that determination was made after they worked all night looking at all aspects of the accident. They used the driver’s interview and the children’s interview to piece everything together. (Please note the use of “As for as I know” for when I do not have ALL of the FACTS.)

        You can access local news by going to our local news outlets. They aren’t hard to find through a quick Google search.

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