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.
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