Former Walker Co. school bus driver doesn't want to be "scapegoa - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Former Walker Co. school bus driver doesn't want to be "scapegoat" in child's death

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In April of 2014, a 6-year-old boy was killed after being run over by a school bus in the parking lot of Chattanooga Valley Elementary School.  

The accident was ruled unavoidable, and the bus driver was cleared of any wrongdoing.  

Eighteen months later, the driver says he's tired of being treated like a scapegoat.


In the accident, six-year-old Zackery Bryant lost his life when he got into the path of a bus driven by Joel Hitchcox.

 It was a day Hitchcox can't get out of his mind.  He says he was unable to leave his house for days, and took a leave of absence from his job.

After investigating, Georgia state troopers said Hitchcox was not at fault, and the accident could not have been avoided.  Hitchcox admits he needed time to heal, taking time off to seek counseling.

When he was able to return to work, Walker County school officials reassigned him to a janitorial job.  

What happened next is disputed by both sides.  Superintendent Damon Raines said the move was good for Hitchcox, giving him and the community time to heal.

Hitchcox says he ended up losing money after the transfer, a statement contradicted by Raines, who said the former driver had the opportunity to make more money.

Hitchcox says other Walker County drivers have not been punished for reckless driving, while he feels he's been made a scapegoat for the tragedy.

He's moved on to another job as a truck driver, but still feels he was done wrong by Walker County.

Hitchcox says his purpose in speaking out is not to regain his job.  

He says he wants to clear his name, and that the school system should apologize for leading people to believe that he was at fault in the fatal accident.  

Raines says that was never the school system's intention.  "We did everything we could to help him, and never pointed fingers at him.  I don't know what we would apologize for."

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