Principal says school is ‘deeply grieving’ after deadly Chattanooga bus crash

Flowers, signs and stuffed animals make up a makeshift memorial outside Woodmore Elementary School on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WKRN) – A week after six elementary students were killed in a bus crash, the principal says the school is deeply grieving.

On Monday, around 85 percent, or 292 students attended class at Whitmore Elementary School.

Johnthony Walker (Courtesy: Chattanooga Police Department)
Johnthony Walker (Courtesy: Chattanooga Police Department)

“Our goal was today was to make sure that we created and had a stable, safe and comforting environment for our students,” Principal Brenda Cockran said.

Cockran said 15 counselors were available to students on Monday, as well as five therapy dogs, hundreds of teddy bears and thousands of hugs.

“Our hearts continue to be broken and we are deeply grieving,” she said.

Interim superintendent Dr. Kirk Kelly said the school is “humbled by the outpouring of love” from the community in the days since the accident.

We are trying to return to school and operate as normal – that is our goal to do,” he said. “Getting students back on a normal routine is vital for their well-being.”

Dr. Kelly added he could not comment on Johnthony Walker, the 24-year-old bus driver charged in the crash.

Walker is charged with vehicular homicide and is due in court on Tuesday. Federal investigators now say he was not on his designated route when the bus crashed. Six students were killed and five others remain hospitalized. Three of the students were last listed in critical condition, while the others were listed in fair condition.

It reminds unknown why Walker was on Talley Road at the time of the accident. Investigators said neither drugs nor alcohol were found in Walker’s system.

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