Heartbreaking Stories Following the Tragic School Bus Crash in Chattanooga
Chattanooga (WDEF) Heartbreaking stories continue to be told in Chattanooga, following the tragic school bus crash that cut five young lives short.
Family members of those lost remain in shock and disbelief. Monday’s crash killed five Woodmore Elementary students, a Kindergartner, First Grader, and three Fourth-graders.
We previously reported on the Mateen family. Three of their children were on the bus. Two were hurt, but 6 year-old Ziara wasn’t found right away. She was among the children killed. Her mother Jasmine says “I’m angry, hurt. She was the light of the party. Always happy. She wanted to be a doctor.” Mateen says she complained to school officials for months about Johnthony Walker’s driving. She says one of her daughter’s even told her on the first day of school the bus driver had been drinking.
We’ve heard from several family members of children on that bus and they tell a similar story. Lowenstein Smith says her grandson recently told a teacher about how Walker drove. “He told them the bus driver be driving so fast everyday that they’re scared.” Natlia Reed, who lost two cousins in the crash, says “this bus driver was on the bus asking these children are you ready to die are y’all ready to die? Was that a question to ask children K through 5th grade? They hadn’t even lived their lives.”
Another parent says she kept getting caught in a referral loop with nothing getting done, since Hamilton County contracts its school buses out to Durham School Services.
The bus crashed traveling South on Talley road. Authorities say it had just left Woodmore Elementary moments earlier and had not yet dropped off any students. Residents who live near the crash site couldn’t believe what they saw and heard. “Oh they was just screaming as loud as they could scream, you know. And one little boy he… he was just laying there, I thought he had already passed. And then it was another little boy he wanted to know if he was bleeding, because he seen all the other kids with all the blood all over them,” says Mary Smith.
Ed Wilson encountered the crash site and says he saw “about a half a dozen or so escaping through the roof hatch and jumping down to the ground level and some people nearby I guess neighbors stopped to comfort the children to help them.”
Emergency crews needed almost two hours to get all the children out of the wreckage.