In a YouTube video posted Wednesday afternoon from Chattanooga, the head of the company that employed the driver of Monday’s fatal school bus crash said he was “deeply sorry.” Five students died in the crash. Six children are still in the intensive care unit at Erlanger hospital.
His voice cracking with emotion, Durham School Services CEO David Duke said he is struggling to fathom the anguish of parents and his company’s role in the loss of their children.
"Nothing I can say can take away the pain and the grief for these families," he said. "My responsibility now is to look for answers. Answers for why this tragedy occurred, and answered for how we can make sure that his never, ever happens again."
Duke could not comment on the accident or the investigation of the National Transportation Safety Board but does say the company is “cooperating fully.”
He said he’s determined to find out what happened and will offer any support they can to the families.
The 24-year-old driver, Johnthony Walker, received his commercial license in April and started driving for Hamilton County Schools this fall.
The mother of one of the five children who died in the crash says she had been complaining about his driving for months. Police say Walker was responsible for a minor school bus accident two months ago.
Governor Bill Haslam arrived in Chattanooga Wednesday morning to meet with the educators and families of the students.
He began his brief press conference by expressing sympathy and praised teachers and neighbors who showed up at the scene with first responders.
When asked what the state should do about school bus safety, Haslam said he planned to have his education and safety commissioners do a thorough review.
“I think it’s time for us to step back, all of us, local school boards, the state, and look at the whole school bus process, from how we hire drivers to how we ensure safety of the equipment, to whether there are seatbelts on those buses,” he said.
The governor cited conflicting studies on the safety of seatbelts but noted it is worth looking into again.
Woodmore Elementary School Principal Brenda Adamson-Cothran was on hand and said her school will be providing grief counseling for students when they return on Monday. She would not confirm that parent sent a letter two weeks ago complaining about the bus driver who is now charged with five counts of vehicular homicide.