Truck driver who triggered deadly Colorado crash charged with homicide

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(Reuters) – Police have charged a truck driver with vehicular homicide after he triggered a fiery multi-vehicle crash that killed a still unknown number of motorists, some of whom remain in the wreckage on an interstate near Denver, authorities said on Friday.

The crash on Thursday afternoon turned a stretch of Interstate 70, a major east-west highway, into a raging inferno that involved at least 28 vehicles and may have damaged the road surface and an overpass, authorities said.

A day after the crash, the death toll remains at “multiple” as responders and investigators inspect the burned-out vehicles, Lakewood, Colorado, police spokesman Ty Countryman told reporters.

“We’re just saying ‘multiple’ at this time,” he said, adding that six people were taken to hospitals.

Asked whether there were still any bodies at the crash site, Countryman said, “Unfortunately, yes, there are.”

Police said the chain-reaction crash started when a tractor-trailer truck collided with slower traffic on the highway.

The driver, who was injured in the crash, but not seriously, was taken into custody after police determined they had sufficient cause to bring “multiple counts of vehicular homicide” against him, Countryman said.

There was no indication that the driver, who was not immediately identified, intentionally caused the crash, Countryman said, adding that “at this time there’s no evidence of drugs or alcohol.”

Despite the criminal charges, Countryman said investigators were also trying the determine if the truck’s brakes failed.

The stretch of Interstate 70, which runs through Denver west into the Rocky Mountains, will remain closed in both directions at least until sometime on Saturday, state Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Josh Laipply told reporters.

Parts of the highway will need to be resurfaced and, while a preliminary check shows that a bridge over the crash site was undamaged, it will need a full safety inspection, Laipply said.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Driver arrested, faces charges in deadly Tennessee school bus crash

Rescue officials at the scene of a school bus crash involving several fatalities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S.,

By Frank McGurty

(Reuters) – A bus carrying elementary students home from school in Chattanooga, Tennessee, crashed on Monday afternoon, killing six children and sending nearly two dozen to a hospital with injuries, authorities said.

The driver, identified as Johnthony Walker, 24, was taken into custody and faces five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving charges, Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher said during a news conference.

“This is an absolute nightmare for our community,” Fletcher said.

Chattanooga Police said earlier on Twitter the driver was being questioned and was cooperating with investigators.

Speed appeared to have contributed to the crash, which happened at 4 p.m. CST, Fletcher said.

The bus crash left five dead, police said on Twitter late on Monday. Five students died at the scene and a sixth student died at a hospital, according to Melydia Clewell, spokeswoman for the Hamilton County District Attorney’s office.

The vehicle normally carries 35 passengers, Clewell said. It was not clear how many students were riding in the bus when it crashed.

The students were in kindergarten through fifth grade, she said, which would make them roughly aged between five and 10.

Clewell said two or three children who were in hospital “could go either way.”

Rescue officials at the scene of a school bus crash involving several fatalities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S., November 21, 2016.  Courtesy of Chattanooga Fire Dept/Handout via REUTERS

Rescue officials at the scene of a school bus crash involving several fatalities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S., November 21, 2016. Courtesy of Chattanooga Fire Dept/Handout via REUTERS

The crash left the bright yellow school bus wrapped around a tree, mangled and nearly severed in two. Rescue teams were still sifting through the wreckage of the bus, which was resting on its side, two hours after the crash.

Federal transportation investigators were also opening a probe into the crash, and planned to send a team to Chattanooga on Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

School officials had not found any complaints filed against the driver, Clewell said.

Two bloodied children were lying on stretchers in a front yard receiving attention from first responders nearly an hour after the crash, while others not taken to the hospital appeared dazed with cuts on their faces, the Chattanooga Times Free Press newspaper said on its website.

Asked about the crash after a hearing in Nashville, Governor Bill Haslam said the state would offer its assistance.

“It’s a sad situation anytime there’s a school bus with children involved, which there is in this case,” he said.

(Reporting by Frank McGurty; Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta in New York, Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Rory Carroll in San Francisco, Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)