Bus Driver Will Not Face Charges In Tragic Bus Accident

Friday, April 18, 2014 - by Hollie Webb

Sergeant Tommy Sturdivan announced in a Friday afternoon press conference that the investigation into the death of six-year-old Zackery Bryant at Chattanooga Valley Elementary has been officially declared complete and that there will be no criminal charges.

Zackery died tragically on Monday morning after being hit by a school bus after stepping off. According to Sgt. Sturdivan, police reviewed school videos and came to the conclusion that Zackery had walked in front of the front right tire of the bus, out of the driver's range of vision.

Sgt. Sturdivan said it appeared Zackery had dropped an electronic game device and had been bending over to pick it up. He said from what they found, the corner of the front bumper had caught the mesh on Zackery's backpack and pulled the child down when the bus started to move.

According to the coroner, the autopsy on Wednesday showed the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head. 

When asked about the driver, Sgt. Sturdivan said there were no signs the incident was anything but a tragic accident. The driver was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

He said, "He was obviously shaken and distraught but there was nothing to indicate he was under the influence of anything that day, nothing...He never would have been able to see him where he was in front of the bus." 

An employee of the school system for the past six years, he was described as someone who "took his job seriously" and "loved his students."

The bus was also investigated, but no signs were found of any kind of malfunction. 

Sgt. Sturdivan said, "It's been a very difficult week." He said for him personally, this was the hardest investigation he has ever participated in.

Walker County Superintendent of Schools Damon Raines said, "You're obviously trained for safety at your school but you never expect anything this devastating."

He said because a school employee and an onsite police officer reacted quickly, the number of people who saw the incident was minimal. He also said counselors from other schools had been at Chattanooga Valley Elementary all week in case any students needed to talk. Students have been encouraged to seek further grief counseling if needed. 

Mr. Raines said, "This is understandably difficult for the Bryant family, and our hearts continue to go out to them. But also to the driver, because he will have to live with this."

Sgt. Sturdivan also told members of the media that the family has requested no one show the security video of the incident.

AUDIO: County Commission Meeting 2/10/16

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