CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Bloodied students lay on stretchers, while other children walked away dazed with their parents after an elementary school bus crash that killed five Monday in Chattanooga.
Chattanooga police Chief Fred Fletcher says the crash was “every public safety professional’s worst nightmare.”
The bus was carrying 35 children from Woodmore Elementary, students in kindergarten through fifth grade, when it crashed about 3:30 p.m., turned on its side and wrapped around a tree.
Fletcher says police were interviewing the bus driver to determine what happened and told reporters later that investigators were looking at speed as a possible contributing factor. The bus was the only vehicle involved, he says.
Twenty-three students were taken to hospitals, Fletcher said. He did not have information about the extent of injuries. Media reported it took about two hours to get the last children off the bus.
Television stations reported that people lined up to donate blood and some donors were asked to make appointments for Tuesday.
Kirk Kelly, interim superintendent for Hamilton County schools, says classes would be held on Tuesday, with counselors available for students and staff.
Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston tells media outlets five people died at the scene and one died at the hospital. Melydia Clewell, the district attorney’s spokeswoman, confirmed the number.
Chattanooga police Assistant Chief Tracy Arnold says officials would not identify the students who died, or their ages, until parents were notified.
“Our hearts go out, as well as the hearts of all these people behind me, to the families, the neighborhood, the school, for all the people involved in this, we assure you we are doing everything we can,” Fletcher says.
At the state Capitol in Nashville, Gov. Bill Haslam calls the crash “a tragic event” and offered assistance.
“We’re going to do everything we can to assist in any way,” Haslam says. “It’s a sad situation anytime there’s a school bus with children involved, which there is in this case.”
**EDIT: This article has been corrected from six children killed to five. The Hamilton County District Attorney originally announced six.**