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United States

Six children killed on Tennessee school bus, driver arrested

The driver of a school bus that crashed in the US state of Tennessee, killing six people, has been arrested. Students on the bus ranged from kindergarten through fifth grade and 24 people were sent to hospital.

Twenty-four year old Johnthony Walker was charged with five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving, Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher said, adding that additional charges might be added as the case goes to a grand jury.

The school bus reportedly flipped onto its side at 16.00 CST (2100 UTC) and slammed roof-first into a tree as it was carrying 35 children from Woodmore Elementary in Chattanooga on the bus Monday afternoon.

Five died at the scene and one died at the hospital, Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston said. Two or three children who were in hospital "could go either way," a hospital official said.

Rescue teams were still sifting through the wreckage of the bus, which was resting on its side, two hours after the crash.

'Absolute nightmare'

"This is an absolute nightmare for this community," city police chief Fred Fletcher said. "Certainly speed is being investigated very, very strongly as a factor in this crash," Fletcher said. "It was clear and dry ... there did not appear to be any roadway conditions. But it is a complicated ... scene, it covers a significant area," he added, describing the incident as "every public safety official's worst nightmare."

Fletcher said a warrant was issued to remove the black box from the bus to review evidence.

Local media reported that dazed children lay on stretchers at the scene of the crash, near Woodmore Elementary School, waiting for ambulances to take them to hospital.

Amy Katcher, spokeswoman for Hamilton County Schools, told the news agency AFP that "this is the worst tragedy we have had to deal with."

jbh (AP, AFP, Reuters)