NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Jasmine Mateen, mother of 6-year-old Chattanooga bus crash victim Zyaira Mateen, spoke with News 2 about her daughter and prior concerns over the bus driver charged in the crash.
“She was always singing. She was always cracking jokes,” Mateen said. “She wanted to be a doctor. She wanted to work with disabled kids because I have a disabled son.”
Mateen’s two other daughters were also injured in the crash. Her fourth child stayed home that day.
“My body went numb,” she said of the moment she learned of her daughter’s death. “The only thing I wanted to do was hurt the person that hurt her.”
Mateen’s surviving daughters told her the bus driver, Johnthony Walker, said, “Y’all ready to die?” just prior to the crash. One of the girls also told Mateen that he was “drinking clear liquor” and that his foot was all the way down on the gas pedal.
Chattanooga police said Wednesday they have not verified that account, and his toxicology tests came back clean, but anyone with any information is asked to come forward.
The mother also told News 2 she has previously contacted Woodmore Elementary School about her concerns over Walker’s driving. She said she let school officials know her children were complaining about Walker smoking on the bus, drinking on the bus, and speeding.
Mateen said the school told her to contact the transportation department, which she did. She was later told to contact Durham School Services, the company that contracted out the bus to the school system.
She claims she contacted the company and never received a response. Mateen again contacted the transportation department and left “voicemail after voicemail.”
After again not receiving a call back, she contacted the board of education. She told News 2 she did not receive a call back from them either.
Mateen went in person to visit the school and said she felt like she was “getting the run around.”
She ultimately wrote a letter to the school and the bus driver about two and a half weeks before the crash. Matteen explained to News 2 she was told by her daughters that the principal read the letter out loud on the bus.
She said the bus driver, who she calls a monster, said he would just do it again after the principal left.
Mateen said her children told her the principle did ride on the bus with them one day.
“I just feel like the system failed us,” she said.