KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee school bus driver was texting at the time of a crash that killed two young girls and an aspiring teacher last year, accident investigators said Friday.
James Davenport had sent and received multiple text messages leading up to the time the two buses collided in December, Knoxville police said in a written statement. The investigation file has been turned over to county prosecutors.
Officers have met with the victims’ families to inform them of the results of the investigation.
“This has been a very difficult procedure for all involved, and hopefully, this has provided the families another step in their healing process,” police said in the statement.
Police said they were informed that Davenport died this week as they were nearing the conclusion of their investigation. Knox County Sheriff’s officials said he apparently died of natural causes. But an autopsy was ordered for Davenport, who had sustained serious injuries in the crash.
The two buses were traveling in opposite directions on Asheville Highway when Davenport made a sudden left turn across the concrete median and crashed into the other bus taking children home from a primary school.
Police identified the two children who were killed as Zykia Burns, 6, and Seraya Glasper, 7. The adult was 46-year-old Kimberly Riddle, a teacher’s aide.
The Rev. A. Gene Thomas Jr. was Seraya’s pastor.
“It’s saddening and disheartening to know that he was texting while he was driving,” Thomas said. “Unfortunately we live in a society where individuals break the law and tragically take the life of someone on else because they’re negligent.”
Thomas said this week’s news that Davenport had died had “opened up old wounds” for Seraya’s family.
“But they’re strong, they’ve made it this far and they’re going to continue to make it,” he said. “We just continue to remember Seraya in a good way.”
Note: For more, see the News-Sentinel. The mishap led Rep. Joe Armstrong to push a bill in the past legislative session calling for seat belts on school buses — previous post HERE. Officially, HB770 was deferred to “summer study” — unofficially, killed — by a House subcommittee.