An accident involving two school buses on December 2nd is raising serious questions, and demands serious answers. The Tennessee Depart of Safety and the National Transportation Safety Board are conducting investigations, but police released preliminary findings ahead of the official reports.

What We Know So Far

According to police, Knox County school bus 44 was traveling east on Asheville Highway and, for unknown reasons, made a sharp left turn and crossed over a concrete median. The report indicates that bus 44 then hit the westbound Knox County school bus 57, knocking bus 57 on its’ side and killing three people. Another 27 people were injured.

Some students on bus 44 told parents or guardians that Davenport swerved sharply to avoid colliding with another vehicle on Asheville Highway. However, developing reports brought some disturbing information to light. Joe Gallman, driving bus 57, has a learner’s permit to operate a school bus. Tennessee Depart of Safety’s spokeswoman Dayla Qualls said, “Mr. Gallman does not have the school bus endorsement on his CDL

[Commercial Driver’s License] license.”

Gallman has disputed the information, claiming a 40 year driving record, though he declined to produce his driver’s license. When asked how school authorities assure drivers are properly licensed to operate a school bus, Knox County Schools spokeswoman Amanda Johnson did not reply.

The incident has spurred a review of the contracts of the companies that own the buses involved in the crash, and raises questions of contract vetting by the school board. Rick Fawver, who owns bus 57 and employs Joe Gallman, voluntarily terminated his contract with Knox County Schools, with no reason cited. Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre has ordered a complete review of all of the county’s bus drivers.

A sad story

Though we’ve discussed this topic before, we’re continuing to monitor developments. We believe that accountability is paramount in any situation, but particularly when accidents have such devastating consequences. This accident was tragic, and only by comprehensively investigating and fully understanding the causes can we hope to avoid similar situations in the future. Our hearts go out to those affected by this life-altering catastrophe.