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At Least 5 Children Killed In Tennessee School Bus Crash


Federal investigators are in Chattanooga, Tenn., trying to figure out why a school bus crashed yesterday. The accident killed five elementary school students and sent more than 20 others to hospitals. Police say the bus driver was going well above the speed limit when the bus went off the road in a residential neighborhood and slammed into a tree. Emily Siner reports from member station WPLN that the community is just starting to deal with what happened.

EMILY SINER, BYLINE: It was not a normal day at Woodmore Elementary this morning as a bunch of reporters were camped out, waiting to hear from school officials.



KIRK KELLY: Yeah, I'm ready.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: All right, ladies and gentlemen, this is Dr. Kirk Kelly.

SINER: Kirk Kelly is Chattanooga's interim school superintendent. He said he's heartbroken after what happened.


KELLY: Yesterday was the worst day that I can recall in my life as an educator and as a parent and as a member of this community.

SINER: The school was open today and filled with grief counselors. That was a relief for Demetrius Jenkins. He had just dropped his 6-year-old off at school and said his son was good friends with one of the girls who died. But Jenkins couldn't figure out how to tell him.

DEMETRIUS JENKINS: It's just a million things going through my head. I don't know how to explain it to him. I don't even know how to begin to explain it to him.

SINER: A mile away at the crash site, the mangled yellow bus was carted off on a massive flatbed trailer. Investigators have been trying to learn more details about the crash and the driver, 24-year-old Johnthony Walker. Police arrested him on a variety of charges including vehicular homicide. Walker's mother, Gwenevere Cook, says he called her right after the crash and told her it was a terrible accident. She says she understands how parents of the victims feel.

GWENEVERE COOK: But can you just stop to put your feet also in my son's feet, who's 24, who's compassionate, who's never done anything wrong.

SINER: Cook says her son just started driving the school bus this year. Last year, a man opened fire on two military centers here which also killed five people. The mayor said today it's a cursed number for the city. For NPR News, I'm Emily Siner in Chattanooga, Tenn. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emily Siner is an enterprise reporter at WPLN. She has worked at the Los Angeles Times and NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., and her written work was recently published in Slices Of Life, an anthology of literary feature writing. Born and raised in the Chicago area, she is a graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.