-- New video played in court today shows the driver in a deadly 2016 bus crash with a cellphone in his hand, prosecutors say.
Johnthony Walker, 25, was driving a school bus when it crashed on Talley Road in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Nov. 21, 2016. Thirty-seven students were on the bus at the time of the crash; six died and many others were injured.
Walker is charged with 34 counts, including six counts of vehicular homicide. His trial began today and he has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutor Crystle Carrion introduced three video clips from three different cameras on the school bus. One clip shows students getting on the bus prior to the crash, prosecutors say, adding that a cellphone can be seen in Walker’s hand.
Two other clips show the aftermath of the crash. Prosecutors say the footage shows students exiting the overturned bus through the front windshield and side windows. One young girl is unable to get out, her arm pinned under debris, prosecutors say. Walker is also seen helping children off the bus, according to prosecutors.
“It all could have been avoided if Johnthony Walker had slowed down below the speed limit and stayed off his phone,” Carrion said today.
Walker’s attorney, Amanda Dunn, did not dispute her client caused the injuries that took place that day. Dunn, however, argued today the Chattanooga Police Department did not fully investigate an eyewitness who said Walker swerved the bus to avoid an oncoming white van on the day of the crash.
“[There is] no justice in convicting a man based on conjecture, and that is what the state wants to do,” Dunn said.
On the first day of the trial, multiple witnesses were called to the stand, many of them members of the Chattanooga Police Department.
One witness, Takisha Nixon, had a phone call with Walker as he was driving the bus, but before the crash. Nixon said the conversation was brief.
“I said, 'Are you working?' He said yes. I said, 'Are you driving?' He said yes. I said 'Be careful' and hung up,” Nixon said.
Nixon said she did not know at the time Walker was driving a school bus full of children, but feels “very strongly” about talking on the phone while driving because of past experiences.
Nixon also stated in her testimony she doesn’t think the conversation lasted three minutes and 50 seconds, as phone records shown by prosecutors indicate. She said she thinks the phone just never hung up.
The trial will continue Wednesday.