*A school bus filled with children slammed into a tree, flipped over and split apart Monday afternoon on a street in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
At least five children were killed in the crash, school officials said, and six others are hospitalized in an intensive care unit.
“Five is a cursed number in our city right now. … We are … dealing with an unimaginable loss,” Mayor Andy Berke said. “The most unnatural thing in the world is for a parent to mourn the loss of a child.”
The bus driver, Johnthony Walker, 24, has been charged with five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving. He could face more charges as the case proceeds to a Hamilton County grand jury, Chattanooga police Chief Fred Fletcher said.
Walker has been cooperative and talking to investigators, according to police.
Of the five confirmed dead, three were fourth-graders at Woodmore Elementary School, one was a first-grader and one was a kindergartner, according to Kirk Kelly, interim superintendent for Hamilton County Schools. Six students remain hospitalized in the intensive care unit, and six are in regular rooms at the hospital, Kelly said.
“There are still some unanswered questions at this time, but our priority remains with our students,” Kelly said Tuesday morning, adding that counselors would be at the school for anyone who needs to talk.
“There are no words that you can say,” Kelly said Tuesday morning. “This is something that you’ll never get over … but we’re just doing what we can and reaching out and offering words of comfort and support to the families.”
Parents heard crying and screaming “that’s my baby” as they arrive on scene. Media now being pushed back a block. CPD expanding crime scene.
— Stephanie Santostasi (@Stephanie_NC9) November 21, 2016
The bus was traveling at high speed just before the crash, one of the children who was onboard told CNN affiliate WDEF-TV.
“He was going real fast and he hit a garbage bag,” the boy said. “And we then hit a mailbox, then we flipped over and hit a tree real hard.”
A woman who lives near the crash told WDEF the impact was so powerful it knocked her power out. “I just heard a big boom,” the woman said.