UPDATE via NYPost:
The driver behind the wheel of a Tennessee school bus that crashed and killed five children asked the kids if they were “ready to die” as he sped along a Chattanooga road, according to a report.
A mom who had three students aboard the bus — one of whom died — told CBS News that Johnthony Walker asked the chilling question seconds before the yellow bus slammed into a telephone pole and a tree.
Walker, 24, was well above the 30-mph speed limit while driving 35 students home from the Woodmore Elementary School on Monday — crashing on a narrow road about a mile from the school, Police Chief Fred Fletcher said.
A fatal school bus crash rocked the town of Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Monday afternoon. The bus was carrying 37 elementary school students (kindergarten to fifth grade) from Woodmore Elementary School in Hamilton County.
Around 3:20 p.m. local time, the bus rolled and crashed into a tree, nearly breaking in half. District Attorney Neil Pinkston initially told reporters that six children had died, but police later confirmed the number at five. In addition, 23 students were taken to nearby Erlanger Hospital.
Local reporters issued a call for blood donations almost immediately, and the city responded with overwhelming support. Mindy Quinn from Blood Assurance spoke to CNN:
“Hundreds and hundreds of donors flocked to give blood to treat crash victims. We have had people who were refusing to leave until they give blood.”
Blood Assurance even extended their business hours to accommodate the massive influx of donations.
At the crash site, local officials have been working with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in order to determine the cause of the crash — and the NTSB has confirmed that they expect the investigation to continue for another seven to ten days:
According to Hamilton County Department of Education’s interim superintendent Kirk Kelly, three of the children who were killed were in fourth grade, one was in first grade, and the other was a kindergartner. Four of the five were girls.
Details have not been released regarding the extent of the injuries of the 23 students who were hospitalized following the crash, but Kelly also confirmed that six students still remain in intensive care.
Despite the fact that legislation has been introduced on several occasions to require state and federal background checks prior to hiring school bus drivers, the qualifications by which potential drivers are measured still vary greatly by state.
In the state of Tennessee, requirements are relatively simple — drivers must only have a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) with S (school bus) and P (passenger) endorsement.