The driver, identified as Johnthony Walker, 24, was taken into custody and faces five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving charges, Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher said during a news conference, Reuters reports.
“This is an absolute nightmare for our community,” Fletcher said.
Chattanooga Police said earlier on Twitter the driver was being questioned and was cooperating with investigators.
Speed appeared to have contributed to the crash, which happened at 4 p.m. CST, Fletcher said.
The students were in kindergarten through fifth grade, she said, which would make them roughly aged between five and 10.
Clewell said two or three children who were in hospital “could go either way.”
The crash left the bright yellow school bus wrapped around a tree, mangled and nearly severed in two. Rescue teams were still sifting through the wreckage of the bus, which was resting on its side, two hours after the crash.
Federal transportation investigators were also opening a probe into the crash, and planned to send a team to Chattanooga on Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board said.
School officials had not found any complaints filed against the driver, Clewell said.
Photo: Courtesy of Chattanooga Fire Dept/Handout via REUTERS.