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At Least 5 Children Die In Tennessee School Bus Crash

In this photo provided by the Chattanooga Fire Department via Chattanooga Times Free Press, Chattanooga Fire Department personnel work the scene of a fatal elementary school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Monday.
Bruce Garner

Updated Tuesday morning at 7:20 a.m. ET

At least five children died after a school bus carrying them home from elementary school crashed Monday afternoon in Chattanooga, Tenn. About two dozen other children were injured, several critically.

Six children remain in intensive care, the school announced at a press conference Tuesday morning.

The driver, identified by police as 24-year-old Johnthony Walker, was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving.

Reporter Emily Siner of member station WPLN tells our Newscast unit:

It's a terrible sight. The school bus was going around a curve on a winding, hilly road and ended up crashing into a tree and flipping on its side. Late into the evening, there was still debris everywhere as investigators examined the crash site.

About 35 students, from kindergarten to fifth grade, were on the bus.

Reporter Edward Miller of member station WUTC reports for Newscast:

[Walker] was driving children home from Woodmore Elementary.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.Woodmore Elementary will remain open Tuesday and provide grief counselors.

Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher said, "The type of accident we're responding to today, a bus accident with multiple injuries to children, is every public safety professional's worst nightmare."

Reuters, citing Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher, said speed appeared to have been a factor in the crash.

The Associated Press reports that no other vehicles were involved in the accident. It took emergency responders nearly 2 hours to remove all the children from the vehicle, the wire service says.

Here's more from the AP:

"Television stations reported that people lined up to donate blood and some donors were asked to make appointments for Tuesday.

"Kirk Kelly, interim superintendent for Hamilton County schools, said classes would be held Tuesday with counselors available for students and staff.

"Fletcher said the families of the children who died had been notified but police would not release their names because they were juveniles.

" 'Our hearts go out, as well as the hearts of all these people behind me, to the families, the neighborhood, the school ... for all the people involved in this, we assure you we are doing everything we can,' Fletcher said."

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Mark Katkov
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