There are some tragedies that first responders say change them forever. We are certain that the bus crash that occurred recently in Chattanooga, Tennessee will be one of those. Six children perished when a school bus lost control and hit a tree. This past Thanksgiving weekend has been a time of shock, prayer and mourning for the families in Chattanooga. Elementary school children as young as kindergarten were on the bus. In the midst of the tragedy, the community immediately turned out to support the families of the children, donating blood and finding other ways to give to the bereaved families. The sadness continues as funerals take place for the young victims.
The driver has now been charged with vehicular homicide. The route he took the day of the tragedy has been determined not to be part of the official bus route. He had received his commercial license in April and was relatively new to driving a school bus. Records have been released that indicate that earlier this fall, several students complained about the driving and a parent did as well. The students said he tried to make them fall off their seats and swore at them. The driver also had complained in the past that students were not minding his instructions.
The National Transportation Safety Board has been at the crash site since the day after it occurred and is investigating all aspects of this monumental tragedy. One part of that investigation concerns “human performance” and whether the driver’s second job was causing fatigue. Apparently, he was also working at an Amazon fulfillment center. Other investigative work includes analysis of the mechanical and interior of the bus. The NTSB will analyze whether use of seat belts and the use of seat belts with shoulder belts would have made a difference in saving lives and avoiding injuries in this tragedy. The use of both seat belts and shoulder belts saved lives in a school bus crash in Anaheim, California a few years ago. The NTSB is seeking information from witnesses and will be interviewing parents and others.
The devastating crash may have been caused by speeding. The road was dry and the weather was clear and the bus driver did not appear to have any drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the accident. The bus was equipped with a box that will provide information to investigators. There will also be videos from the three cameras on board as to what happened. Experts have been called in to download the videos. The damage to the equipment has presented challenges to seeing these videos. Both of these were the subject of a search warrant that was issued to authorities very soon after this crash occurred. All aspects of the crash will be investigated and reported on by the NTSB.
Scholle Law extends our deepest sympathies to the families who are grieving the loss of precious children and our best wishes to those who are recovering from injuries.