Bus company to pay funeral, medical expenses following Chattanooga crash

Nov. 23, 2016: A sixth child has died after a school bus crash in Chattanooga earlier this week.

CHATTANOOGA - In addition to paying for the funerals of six children who died as a result of a school bus crash in Chattanooga, Durham School Services says it will pay for counseling, hospital expenses and medical expenses for children who were injured in the crash. 

The first two funerals for children that died in the crash will be held this weekend, according to the Hamilton County Department of Education. A visitation for 9-year-old Cor'Dayja Jones is being held Friday night, and her funeral is Saturday. A visitation for 10-year-old Zyanna Harris is scheduled for Saturday, and her funeral will be on Sunday. 

In a letter to Hamilton County Department of Education Interim Superintendent Kirk Kelly Friday, Durham CEO David Duke said the company "would like to provide support to the families impacted by the tragic accident." 

The bus that crashed was operated by Durham, and the driver was a Durham employee. The driver, 24-year-old Johnthony Walker, has been charged with five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless driving and reckless endangerment. 

Chattanooga Police have said that Walker was driving "well above" the posted 30 m.p.h. speed limit on Talley Road when the bus overturned and crashed into a tree around 3:30 p.m. Monday. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, and said Wednesday that Talley Road was not on the designated route for the bus to take. 

There were 37 Woodmore Elementary School students on the bus, ages kindergarten to fifth grade. 

Chattanooga Police confirmed five children were killed Monday. On Wednesday, police said a sixth child had died. 

Erlanger Children's Hospital said five children remained hospitalized there as of Thursday. Four were in critical condition and one was in fair condition. 

Six-year-old Zyaira Mateen was killed and her sisters, 6-year-old Zasmyn and 10-year-old Zacauree'a are both still in intensive care, according to their mother. 

Another child killed in the crash was 6-year-old D'Myunn Brown. His mother, Diamond said she plans to honor her son by grieving with a smile through the tears. 

“My son he loved to smile, loved to take a picture so I always have to feel like I’m in front of the cam for him he loved the camera,” Brown said.

The crash also killed 8-year-old Keonte Wilson and 9-year-olds Cor'Dayja Jones and Zoie Nash. 

The oldest crash victim is 10-year-old Zyanna Harris, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

PREVIOUS: Four girls and one boy killed in Chattanooga school bus crash 

Erlanger Children's Hospital doctors said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference that it was especially difficult because the victims were children and didn't have identification. 

Doctors said many of the children weren't able to tell them their parents' names. They had to take photos to teachers from Woodmore Elementary to give them a better idea of who was who. 

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Because parents were told to go to the hospital, it fell on doctors and hospital officials to notify the families of children who died. 

At one point, a hospital spokesperson said there were 800 family members at the hospital. 

In the letter Friday, Duke said the company will pay for funeral expenses; family member travel-related expenses to attend the funeral; counseling for family members, parents and members of the Woodmore Elementary School staff; hospital expenses for students involved in the crash; and medical expenses related to the crash for up to six months from the date of release from the hospital. 

"Our entire team is devastated by this accident and shares in your and your community’s pain. We are
just as anxious as you are to figure out what happened, and while we are working with investigators,
please know that we are keenly aware that many are suffering. It is our hope that this offer of support
provides a small level of comfort," the letter said. 

(© 2016 WBIR)


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