CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A Tennessee school bus driver was on his cellphone and driving 20 mph (30 kph) over the speed limit when he caused the crash that killed six elementary school students, a prosecutor said in court Tuesday.
Prosecutor Crystle Carrion said Johnthony Walker was driving 50 mph (80 kph) on a narrow, winding Chattanooga road when the bus ran off the pavement, hit a pole, and then flipped the bus into a tree.
“It all could have been avoided if Johnthony Walker would have just slowed down and gone the speed limit and stayed off his phone,” Carrion said in opening statements.
She said Walker was driving too fast to navigate a tight curve safely and drifted into the oncoming lane, then overcorrected, leading to the crash.
Walker is being tried on 34 charges, including vehicular homicide.
Defense attorney Amanda Dunn said police made assumptions and came to their conclusions before getting all the facts in the case.
“There is also no justice in convicting a man based on conjecture, and that is exactly what the state seeks to do,” she said. “One of the most important facts in this case that the state still refuses to acknowledge is that there were eyewitnesses to this accident.”
Dunn said Chattanooga police never investigated a witness who said her client swerved to avoid another vehicle while driving 37 students home in 2016.