Mom Says Driver in School Bus Accident Asked Kids if They Were Ready to Die

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The tragic school bus accident in Tennessee that killed five children and injured many others has cast a dark shadow prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. Now one of the mothers, who lost one child in the accident but had two others who survived, says that the driver allegedly asked the kids if they were ready to die right before the crash. “My daughter said right before the bus flipped that he was speeding around the curve and asked them ‘Are y’all ready to die,” said Jasmine Mateen to CBS. Twenty-four-year-old Johntony Walker had been driving the school bus since August and has no previous criminal record.

Walker was arrested on charges of vehicular homicide, reckless driving, and reckless endangerment, with a bond set at $107,500, according to the Chattanooga police. In total, 35 children, from kindergarten up to fifth grade, were on the bus at the time of the accident.

While the accident shocked the community, some parents reported that Walker’s reckless behavior while driving had been an issue in the past. “There has been times where I’ve seen him going a little faster than he probably should be going,” father of two Craig Harris said. Mateen also said that she complained to the school about Walker in the past for slamming his brakes on purpose to make the kids hit their heads. After the school talked to him about his behavior, he allegedly responded, “So, I’d do it again.”

According to Walker’s own mother, he called her right after the accident, saying that he tried to help the children out from the vehicle and that he hoped it wasn’t his fault, which contradicts the notion that he could have crashed the bus on purpose. But according to authorities, he was driving way faster than the speed limit of 30 mph when he somehow slammed the bus into a telephone pole. His mother told reporters that Walker is a sober, dedicated father to a three-year-old and well liked as a school bus driver. She also said that the accident was God’s will.

This wasn’t Walker’s first collision while driving the bus: in September, he crossed the centerline and swiped a car coming in the opposite direction, resulting in material damages. The driver in the other car, Belinda Hamilton, said that she saw him race past a stop sign before he scraped her car. “Luckily, no one got killed. What’s going to happen the next time?” she remembered thinking at the time. Walker also had his license suspended for some time, due to lack of proof of vehicle insurance.

Walker was employed through a bus contractor, Durham School Services, of Illinois. Amy Kutcher, a Hamilton County Schools spokeswoman, did not say whether there were any complaints against him. She said: “Legally, there is no way that we could discipline someone who is not our employee. We’ve got 192 Durham bus drivers. Obviously, this is a bad one.”

Emma Von Zeipel
Emma Von Zeipel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. She is originally from one of the islands of Stockholm, Sweden. After working for Democratic Voice of Burma in Thailand, she ended up in New York City. She has a BA in journalism from Stockholm University and is passionate about human rights, good books, horses, and European chocolate. Contact Emma at



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