Tennessee School Bus Driver Found Guilty in Fatal Crash

Tennessee School Bus Driver Found Guilty in Fatal Crash

A school bus driver from Tennessee has been found guilty in connection with the deaths of six elementary school children in a crash from November of 2016, reports CNN.

At the time of the crash, driver Johnthony Walker had 37 Woodmore Elementary School students on his bus, which flipped over and hit a tree, killing six students between the ages of six and ten. Walker was originally facing 34 charges in connection to the crash, including multiple counts of a vehicular homicide, but he was found guilty on lesser charges of criminally negligent homicide in each of the six deaths. In addition, he was convicted of 11 reckless aggravated assault counts, seven assault counts, reckless driving, reckless endangerment and using his phone while driving.

Over the course of the trial, prosecutors alleged that Walker was going more than the 30-mile-per-hour speed limit in the area and was actually on his cell phone when the bus left the road. Walker, in his defense, said that he had to swerve to avoid a vehicle that entered into his lane and was not on his phone when the accident occurred.

Walker’s defense attorney asserted that the case was not investigated properly by local police, particularly when it came to the white vehicle the bus driver said he had to go off the road to avoid, but investigator Joe Warren disputed those claims on the stand during the course of the trial. According to Warren, Walker was going at least 50 miles per hour when the bus left the road, according to tire marks at the scene and the testimony from witnesses who were in the area at the time. It was also discovered that Walker was not on his designated route at the time of the accident. Walker did say in court that he had a route sheet from older drivers, but the route had since changed because students had been taken off or added to that route.

Prosecutors also said the bus driver was on his phone with a co-worker from his second job, Takiesha Nixon, for four minutes before the accident happened. Nixon testified that as soon as she realized Walker was driving the bus while they were talking, she ended the call. She said that she didn’t learn about the deadly crash until later.

At the time of the tragic accident, Walker was just 24, and the horrific event caused the state to pass a law that changed the minimum bus driver age to 25. This law just went into effect on January 1, 2018, and it also increases the state’s oversight regarding transportation of students. This accident also incited calls for a seat belt requirement on school buses, and a state representative introduced a bill that would have had all buses in the state equipped with a restraint system by mid-2023. That bill has since been removed from consideration.

Bus accidents can have horrific consequences for riders and people nearby, especially when the driver behaves recklessly or negligently. Speak to an attorney, like a bus accident lawyer Denver CO residents rely on,  if you’ve been injured in a bus crash.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Richard J. Banta, P.C. for their insight into bus accident cases.


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