Prosecutors Allege School Bus Driver in Fatal Tennessee Crash Was on Phone

Posted on December 20, 2017
New information indicates Johnthony Walker, the school bus driver charged in a fatal November 2016 crash, took a phone call at the time, prosecutors say. Photo courtesy Chattanooga Fire Department
New information indicates Johnthony Walker, the school bus driver charged in a fatal November 2016 crash, took a phone call at the time, prosecutors say. Photo courtesy Chattanooga Fire Department

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Prosecutors alleged on Tuesday that new information indicates a school bus driver charged in connection with a November 2016 crash that killed six children took a phone call at the time, Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.

As previously reported, Johnthony Walker allegedly was speeding and lost control of his bus, which left the road and hit a utility pole, overturned, and crashed into a tree, causing the roof of the bus to collapse inward. In addition to the fatalities, 31 children were injured in the crash, and Walker received minor injuries. He was indicted on six counts of vehicular homicide, and was also charged with four counts of reckless aggravated assault, one count of reckless endangerment, one count of reckless driving, and one count of use of a portable electronic device by a school bus driver.

The updated information comes from the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB's) review of Walker's phone records, Melydia Clewell, spokeswoman for District Attorney General Neal Pinkston, told the newspaper. Pinkston said in court that Walker received a call at 3:17 p.m. on Nov. 21, 2016, which lasted nearly four minutes. He added that the first 911 call about the crash came in at 3:20 p.m., according to Chattanooga Times Free Press. According to previous testimony in December 2016, Walker had his phone out on the bus at some point, but until Tuesday, prosecutors had not alleged when or how Walker used the device, the newspaper reports.

The NTSB’s report may change as officers make suggestions internally. NTSB spokesman Christopher O’Neil told Chattanooga Times Free Press last week that the NTSB will vote to release the final report at a public hearing, which is tentatively scheduled between April and June.

Judge Don Poole said no phone records will come into evidence until attorneys have a hearing on the issue. He scheduled the hearing for Feb. 5, according to the newspaper. Walker is scheduled to stand trial on Feb. 27.

To read the full story, go here.

Related Topics: distracted driving, fatalities, school bus crash, Tennessee

Comments ( 2 )
  • Rick

     | about 7 months ago

    They have a lot of charges against this driver already. How can they add more to what is already there? I do not understand how the courts are able to charge someone with several charges that are the result of an incident that was not of malicious intent and then continue to addd more charges to the list. If they add the use of a cell phone by the driver of the school bus, would that be the root cause of the accident, therefore the only one that could be properly prosecuted. Also if the phone records may not be admissible in court dependent on the lawyers and the judge, then why could the papers print the information if it may not be relavant to the case? I have been a school bus driver for thirty plus years and everyday I leave home with the bus I fear of making a mistake and being hung out to dry.

  • See all comments
More Stories
File photo courtesy Des Moines (Iowa) Public Schools

Fed Mandate for Lap-Shoulder Belts Looks Unlikely

It was no big surprise that NTSB’s latest report calls for lap-shoulder belts on school buses. What was surprising was how the agency decided to direct that recommendation: not to the feds, but to the states.


Flush Mounting Bracket

A new flush mounting bracket from Pro-Vision Systems is designed to allow bus cameras to be mounted recessed into the bulkhead of a school bus or a transit bus.

Be the First to Know

Get the latest news and most popular articles from SBF delivered straight to your inbox. Stay on top of the school bus industry and don't miss a thing!