Chattanooga police chief Fred Fletcher confirmed the deaths Monday night and said the bus driver was arrested.
The crash happened about 3:30 p.m on Talley Road, not far from Woodmore Elementary School from where the bus was transporting 37 kids from between kindergarten and fifth grade.
Chief Fletcher said the bus was the only vehicle involved in the crash. It ended up on its side and wrapped around a tree in a residential neighborhood.
It took emergency responders over two hours to rescue and pull the children from the bus “using a number of specialized tools, strategies and tactics,” the chief said in the press briefing.
Twenty three students were taken to Children’s Hospital at Erlanger while one more was taken to another local hospital.
Five students were killed, three 4th graders, one 1st grader and a Kindergartner. Authorities have not released their names but Hamilton County Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Kirk Kelly did say it was one boy and four girls killed.
“Multiple children lost their lives today. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, their schools, their friends, and our entire community impacted by this tragedy,” Chief Fletcher said.
The bus driver was identified as Johnthony Walker, age 24. He has been charged with five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving.
“There may be more charges added as this case proceeds to the grand jury here in Hamilton County,” Fletcher told reporters.
Details on Walker’s history as a school bus driver weren’t immediately known.
While the cause of the crash remains under investigation, the police chief said earlier in the day they are “very, very strongly” investigating speed as the primary factor.
The police department has also issued a warrant to remove the black box from the school bus and review the video surveillance inside.
The National Transportation Safety Board announced they are responding to the crash site Tuesday morning to aid in the investigation.
Blood Assurance put out a call to anyone who can donate blood or platelets to help the victims, and many showed up to do so with some being told to make appointments for Tuesday. Those who can donate are asked to call 1-800-962-0628 to schedule an appointment. Click here to check a list of donor centers.
There was also an outpouring of thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families from across the state and country alike, from officials and athletes to celebrities and CEOs. Click here to read what they had to say.