(CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.) — Parents are searching for answers Tuesday after a fatal school bus crash claimed the lives of five children and injured several others Monday in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
For father Craig Harris, the first big fear arose on learning that his daughter, stepson and niece were all involved in the accident.
“This morning, they’re doing a lot better,” Harris said on ABC’s Good Morning America Tuesday.
“My daughter and my stepson, they’re in a lot of pain and a little bit of shock still, but for the most part, they’re fine. My niece, she’s in recovery this morning. She just got out of surgery about an hour ago and they’re just keeping a close eye on her.”
Harris’ niece’s injuries were so severe that doctors said she was at risk of losing an arm because of a torn vein that had to be replaced, he said.
“She’s looking at a long road of recovery and a lot more surgeries, but she’s here,” Harris said.
When Harris got word that his children were in the crash, he admitted he “almost lost it.”
“I had to sit down and really just gain my composure,” he said. “I had to calm my wife down and other family members that were also affected by this and it’s something I never want to face again.”
The driver of the bus, Johnthony Walker, 24, is in custody and has been charged with five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving. He is due to appear in court later this month.
Harris said he does not know Walker personally, but has seen him drive a “little faster than he probably should be going” in a posted speed limit of 30 mph.
“That’s the reason why I tried to be there in the mornings when he’s pulling up,” Harris said. “And also in the evenings because some days he would come up the street and drop them off, some days he would go down the street and drop them off and I’m not a bus driver so I’m not sure what their protocol is. But I kind of figured that wasn’t something he was supposed to be doing.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating Walker’s actions. Hundreds have gathered at hospitals to give blood for the children who were injured in the crash.
“For me, there was a silver lining in this, because I did see my city come together yesterday,” Harris said.
Woodmore Elementary School in Chattanooga is open Tuesday and providing counseling for students and staff after the devastating event, though students will be excused if they choose to stay home.
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