UPDATE: Federal lawsuit filed against Hamilton County schools in - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

WOODMORE BUS CRASH

UPDATE: Federal lawsuit filed against Hamilton County schools in fatal bus crash

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

A federal class action lawsuit claims Hamilton County School officials failed to take action that could have prevented the Woodmore bus crash.

Of the seven suits filed in connection with the crash, this latest one is the first to name the Hamilton County Department of Education.

Although Durham is liable for paying all damages to the victims (according to its contract with the school district), Chattanooga attorney Ronnie Berke said he wanted to make a point to highlighting school officials' prior knowledge of the driver's dangerous behavior.

One month after the Woodmore bus crash, the site on Talley Rd. is now eerily empty.

The teddy bears and balloons are no longer there.

A few ribbons hang from telephone poles, and a radar sign tells drivers if they're going too fast.

But traumatic reminders of November 21st will never go away for six families who lost a child and more than two dozen children who survived.

"The more we learn, the more tragic this becomes," said Berke, "because it never should have happened."

Berke filed the first federal class action lawsuit that names the Hamilton County Department of Education, Durham School Services, and the school district's Transportation Director, Benjamin Coulter.

Berke said a normal day on Bus #366 was tumultuous, to say the least, with Johnthony Walker behind the wheel.

"Kids were, on normal days, being thrown around, thrown out of their seats, all around the bus," he explained. "(Walker) would slam the brakes. Kids would hit their heads on the seat in front of them. There is such a large amount of evidence."

In the months leading up to the crash, parents and children complained to school officials. Public documents reveal administrators' concerns to Durham.

The suit also addresses a comment students said they heard walker yell before the crash: "Are y'all ready to die?"

"I don't believe he was trying to intentionally tell the children he was going to kill them," Berke clarified. "This is just another way he tried to control the children's behavior."

Walker's case was bound over to a grand jury last week. He remains in the Hamilton County Jail.    

The monetary damage limits for lawsuits filed in state court will not apply to this federal lawsuit.

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