KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Investigative documents obtained from the Knox County District Attorney’s office reveal speeding and a string of angry text messages in the moments that led up to last year’s deadly school bus crash in Knox County.
According to the documents, on December 2, 2014, around 2:50 p.m., Bus 44, driven by James Davenport, 48, and carrying 22 children from Chilhowee Intermediate School, was going east on Asheville Highway at 57 miles per hour, despite a 40 miles per hour speed limit. The documents say Davenport had picked the children up from school nine minutes earlier.
Witnesses say Davenport was looking down at the time and data from Davenport’s phone shows he was reading one of several angry text messages sent from a woman identified as “Lacey.”
A Knoxville Police Department investigation previously revealed Davenport was distracted by text messages at the time of the crash.
Witnesses told investigators the speeding bus swerved to avoid crashing into traffic stopped at a traffic light on Asheville Highway. The bus went over the median and crashed into Bus 57, carrying 18 children and a teacher’s aide from Sunnyview Primary School.
According to one student on the bus, Davenport was going “way too fast when he was crossing the bridge” and a mother driving a white SUV in front of bus 44 thought her car was going to be hit. She said “she looked up in the rearview mirror to see the bus coming towards them. She told her daughter hang on but the bus swerved.”
GPS records show Bus 57, driven by Joe Gallman, was also speeding at 55 miles per hour in a 40 miles per hour zone. It was later learned Gallman was also not properly licensed to drive a school bus.
Zykia Burns, 6, and Seraya Glasper, 7, both students at Sunnyview Primary School were killed in the crash, as was teacher’s aide Kimberly Riddle, 46.
Davenport was found dead at his home on June 1, 2015. The cause of death is listed with the sheriff’s office as natural causes, but autopsy results are still pending.
The reports also conclude there were no defects on either bus that could have contributed to the crash.