‘It feels like the bus is going to flip over…’: Students and administrators complained about Tennessee bus driver’s ‘erratic driving’ before fatal crash

Johnthony Walker (pictured), 24, had several complaints about his behavior lodged against him in the weeks before he crashed a bus with 37 children on board, killing six, on Monday

Johnthony Walker (pictured), 24, had several complaints about his behavior lodged against him in the weeks before he crashed a bus with 37 children on board, killing six, on Monday

Complaints were lodged in the weeks before a Tennessee school bus driver crashed into a tree and killed six children on his route, it has been revealed.  

Police have charged driver Johnthony Walker with vehicular homicide after the Chattanooga crash, for which 37 children were on board.  

Records released by the school district Friday include two written statements by students complaining about Walker’s driving.

‘The bus driver drives fast,’ one student wrote earlier this month. 

‘It feels like the bus is going to flip over… When someone is in the aisle he stops the bus and he makes people hit their heads.’

Another student wrote: ‘The bus driver was doing sharp turns and he made me fly over to the next seat. We need seat belts.’

On November 2, a school official boarded the bus after the driver complained that students were not listening to him. One student had complained about the heat on the bus and cursed about it to the bus driver.

'The bus driver drives fast,' one student wrote earlier this month. 'It feels like the bus is going to flip over... 

‘The bus driver drives fast,’ one student wrote earlier this month. ‘It feels like the bus is going to flip over… 

‘The driver was now visibly upset and continued on by saying that he had another job and driving this bus was just a part-time job for him,’ wrote Carlis Shackelford, a behavioral specialist at the school. 

‘Driver stated that he could just leave him at the school. He then stated “or I can just leave the student on the bus and I will get off the bus and leave the school”.

‘Driver stated that he did not care about the students and proceeded to tell the students he did not care about them,’ Shackelford wrote.

The school district’s transportation supervisor, Benjamin Coulter, responded that ‘we are addressing the issue with the driver.’

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher A. Hart said in a news conference earlier this week that Walker had taken on a second job at an Amazon fulfillment center, and part of the agency’s investigation will look at whether fatigue played a role in the wreck.

The bus driver had also complained to administrators that students would not listen to him when he told them not to stand on the bus or sit with their backs facing the front. 

Eight-year-old Keyonte Wilson has been identified as the sixth person to have died in the horrible bus crash in Tennessee 

Eight-year-old Keyonte Wilson has been identified as the sixth person to have died in the horrible bus crash in Tennessee 

Zacaureea Brown (right) had rescued one of her sisters from the bus and tried to go back to save her other sister, six-year-old Zyaira Mateen (left), but was unable to do so

Zacaureea Brown (right) had rescued one of her sisters from the bus and tried to go back to save her other sister, six-year-old Zyaira Mateen (left), but was unable to do so

The driver submitted ten names of students he said were misbehaving. 

The transportation supervisor responded that the driver may have had some legitimate safety concerns but that the driver shouldn’t report so many students.

‘I don’t want the driver to become discouraged, but he can’t be turning ten referrals in a day to you, either,’ Coulter wrote.

Woodmore Principal Brenda Adamson-Cothran asked for video of the bus leaving campus, noting that a few days earlier ‘the driver, in my opinion, was driving way too fast when he pulled out of our school.’

It’s unclear what the video showed; hyperlinks to it are redacted in the records.

On November 16, Adamson-Cothran wrote to Coulter to tell him six students had reported that the driver ‘was swerving and purposely trying to cause them to fall today.’

Walker was driving well above the 30mph speed limit when the bus carrying 35 Woodmore Elementary students flipped onto its side and wrapped around a tree 

Walker was driving well above the 30mph speed limit when the bus carrying 35 Woodmore Elementary students flipped onto its side and wrapped around a tree 

Zyanna Harris (pictured) was identified by family members as one of the five Woodmore Elementary students who died in Monday afternoon's crash in Chattanooga
Cordayja Jones was among those killed

Zyanna Harris (left) and Cordayja Jones (right) were among five children who died

Six-year-old D'Myunn Brown also died in the crash
Jasmine Mateen's daughter, who has not been named, is also a victim

D’Myunn Brown, 6, (left) also died in the crash, along with six-year-old Zyaira Mateen (right)

Walker was in custody at the Hamilton County Correctional Facility on Friday and had a court hearing scheduled for Tuesday. Jail records do not indicate whether he has an attorney.

The complaints about Walker appear to have begun in September when a parent wrote a letter to complain that the driver had cursed her kids and slammed on the brakes, causing them to hit their heads and fall out of their seats.

The parent wrote that if it happened again, she would take it upon herself ‘to beat his (expletive) my damn self.’

In the days immediately after the crash, school officials repeatedly declined to comment on whether anyone had complained or how they responded. 

The correspondence about the driver was released after public records requests by The Associated Press and other media outlets.

Hamilton County schools spokeswoman Amy Katcher noted that Walker was employed by outside contractor Durham School Services, so the district may not have access to all the complaints about him.

'She was a strong baby girl. She's watching over her family and her strength is within my baby brother. He's a fighter,' said Zoey's (above) sister
Zack remains in intensive care with a collapsed lung and a broken arm

Zoey (left) died but her brother Zack (right) remains in intensive care with a collapsed lung and a broken arm, according to their sister, DaQuesha Jermichael

The bus company has not responded to questions about its safety record or Walker’s employment history.  

Coulter, the school district’s transportation supervisor, said in a November 2 email to Durham manager Domenic D’Amico that the Woodmore principal had to intervene several times when Walker was arguing with students.

‘This may be a situation where he needs to be coached on how to deal with the students,’ Coulter wrote.

Walker had also driven off the designated route he was supposed to take and was going too fast at the time of the crash, police say.  

Federal investigators said it was unclear why Walker had taken the bus down the road, given it was not the normal route.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher A. Hart said investigators also don’t know whether he had taken the same route before.

Hart said the NTSB was bringing in a specialist to analyze video and audio recordings made on interior cameras that were damaged in Monday’s wreck. 

Police say the bus was traveling too fast when it veered off a narrow, winding road and crashed into a tree in Chattanooga on Monday

Police say the bus was traveling too fast when it veered off a narrow, winding road and crashed into a tree in Chattanooga on Monday

Investigators are facing similar challenges in retrieving speed and braking information from the engine control module that was removed from the bus.

Walker was arrested and charged with five counts of vehicular homicide following the crash before a sixth child was confirmed to have died on Wednesday.

Police said toxicology reports on the driver showed no trace of drugs or alcohol.

Authorities say Walker was driving well over the posted 30-mph speed limit when he lost control of the bus.

Eight-year-old Keyonte Wilson was the sixth child from Woodmore Elementary to die in hospital following the crash. 

A woman is seen escorting three children who were on the bus at the time of the crash. The children all had cuts, bruises and scratches on them as they were taken away from the scene 

A woman is seen escorting three children who were on the bus at the time of the crash. The children all had cuts, bruises and scratches on them as they were taken away from the scene 

Kevin McClendon, Keyonte’s brother, said the eight-year-old was a ‘tough little boy’ who is now ‘in a better place’, CNN reports.

Cordayja Jones, nine, D’Myunn Brown, six, Zyaira Mateen, six, Zoie Nash, nine, and Zyanna Harris, ten, have been identified as the other students who died. 

It comes as tales of incredible bravery from some of the young students on board the doomed bus began to emerge. 

Ten-year-old Zacaureea Brown was on the bus with her two sisters when the crash took place. 

She was able to heroically carry one of her sisters to safety in the aftermath of the accident, before returning to look for her other sister, according to WTVF.

Tragically, Zacaureea’s sister, six-year-old Zyaira Mateen, died.

Police are continuing to interview witnesses and review video footage of the crash.