A school bus driver in Chattanooga, Tennessee, allegedly asked students whether they were ready to die before crashing the bus.
At least five children from Woodmore Elementary School were killed in the Nov. 21 crash, and more than 20 others were injured.
A mother of one of the children who died told WWJ-TV correspondent Mark Strassmann that her two children that survived told her what 24-year-old bus driver Johnthony Walker said before the fatal crash.
“The mother says that in the moments before the crash, the bus driver said something to the effect of ‘Are you all ready to die?’ and then seconds later, the bus was on its side and five kids were killed,” Strassmann said.
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There were 35 students from kindergarten through fifth grade on the bus when it flipped onto its side and hit a tree.
There are conflicting reports on how many children died in the crash. The Associated Press was only able to confirm five victims, but CNN reports at least six children were killed. The death toll was confirmed to CNN by a spokeswoman for the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office.
Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher would only say that “multiple children” had been killed without giving a specific number because the scene was still active.
Of the children who are confirmed dead, three were in the fourth grade, one was in first grade, and one was in kindergarten, WWJ-TV reports.
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More than 20 children were taken to hospitals for treatment of injuries.
Walker survived the crash and was charged with five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless driving and reckless endangerment, according to a tweet sent by the Chattanooga Police Department.
Speed is strongly being considered as a factor in the crash, Fletcher said. The arrest affidavit states that Walker was driving above the 30 mph speed limit on a narrow, winding road in clear conditions.
A warrant has been issued to obtain the bus’s black box which contains information on the vehicle’s movements.
"Taking care of the children that are injured is our No. 1 priority. Taking care of the families who are looking for, caring for and grieving for children is our second priority," Fletcher said, according to CNN.
"Our thoughts, our prayers and all of our efforts are with the families of these children and others impacted by this tragedy,” he added.
Walker is reportedly cooperating with and talking to investigators.