Fatal Knoxville school bus crash victims identified, police continue to investigate

Knoxville Police Department investigating fatal bus crash, 4 patients still at UT Medical Center
(Photo credit: Jay Roach)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The Knoxville Police Department has identified the victims of Tuesday’s fatal crash involving two buses as officials continue to investigate the wreckage.

Two school buses from Chilhowee Intermediate School and Sunnyview Primary School crashed just after 3 p.m. on Asheville Highway at Gov. John Sevier Highway.

Zykia Burns, 6, and Seraya Glasper, 7, both students at Sunnyview Primary School were killed in the crash, and teacher’s aide Kimberly Riddle, 46.

Four people remained at UT Medical Center Wednesday morning: Jaden Allen and Jada Parman, both 7; the driver of bus 57 serving Sunnyview, Joe Gallman, 67; and the driver of bus 44 serving Chilhowee, James Davenport, 47.

By Wednesday afternoon, two of those had been released.

The NTSB arrived at the scene Wednesday morning to investigate. Knoxville Police Department and Tennessee Highway Patrol crews have been examining the buses, trying to figure out what went wrong. The NTSB is scheduled to look at the buses on Thursday.

Both bus drivers have given blood samples to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for a toxicology report. They are also being interviewed as part of the investigation.

“We have multiple interviews with witnesses who saw the crash and people on the bus,” said KPD spokesman Darrell DeBusk.

Bus 57 had a video recording device, which is part of the evidence in the ongoing investigation.

Both buses passed recent inspections.

A candlelight vigil for the victims of the bus crash will be held on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the parking lot of Church Street United Methodist Church, located in downtown Knoxville on Henley Street.

There is also a teddy bear memorial on Asheville Highway at the site of the accident.

Families of little girls killed in crash say support means a lot to them

“She’s a very happy girl. Always happy every time I see her. She’s so happy and smiling all the time. Not a hard child to get along with. Her brothers and sisters loved her,” said Seraya Glasper’s uncle Kevin Cherry.

Cherry says this isn’t the first death in their family this year.

“When it’s your time it’s your time. It’s a sad, tragic time. I hate it for all the families, but dealing with all the losses I’ve took I just have kind of learned to not question God,” he said.

“We’re just taking it one step at a time. There’s obviously a lot of questions that are forming and that we want answers to, but they’ll come in time,” said Zykia Burns’s uncle Chris Linder.

James Fugate, another uncle of Zykia, says her twin brother Zyquese was on the bus with her when it crashed.

“As of right now he’s handling it pretty good. I broke the news to him last night with the chaplain. He took it pretty well. But he already knew, when he got off the bus and he didn’t see his sister, exactly what was going on,” said Fugate.

The men say the family is grateful for the community’s thoughts and prayers.

“Most importantly man, anybody have kids, don’t take them for granted. Hug your kids, hug your kids,” they said.

Seraya Glasper’s family says Jarnigan and Son mortuary will be handling their arrangements. There is no word yet on services for Zykia Burns.

Teacher’s aide remembered

Kim Riddle was a teachers’ aide at Sunnyview Primary School. Friends and family were remembering her on Wednesday.

“We’re still waiting for somebody to wake us up from a bad dream,” said Mt. Calvary Baptist Church Reverend Leroy Franklin. “She got respect when she walked down the halls.”

He knew Riddle for more than 20 years and describes her as someone everyone looked up to.

She also worked as a youth pastor at their church.

“Children loved her, and she loved children,” said Rev. Franklin.

Rev. Franklin says Riddle just started at Sunnyview this year, fulfilling her passion.

“I think for those brief moments that she was living her dream at her job and for her it was probably a lifetime,” he said.

He says the church, Riddle’s husband Jeff and her two children are trying to understand what has happened, clinging to each other and trying to move forward.

“We’ll go through the grieving process – shock, denial, tears, frustration, revelation. How long it takes I can’t say,” said Rev. Franklin.

The church is planning Riddle’s memorial service, and Rev. Franklin says they have special counselors coming in to help the whole church family, especially the children Riddle worked with, deal with the loss.

KPD chaplain helps victims and officers

Pam Neal has been a chaplain with KPD for the past 17 years. She assisted victims and officers at the scene of the bus crash. When Neal arrived on the scene, her goal was to first help the parents. She helped match parents with their children and supported families of victims. She says she matches needs with resources. Over the next few days, officers who were on scene will also meet with chaplains to talk about their emotions and how they are coping.

“We provide support and encouragement to officers who live with a tremendous amount of stress every day and our role is to try and help and encourage them,” said Neal.

Neal says KPD recognizes the importance of having first responders discuss their experiences and emotions rather than keep it inside. KPD even has a peer support team trained to help officers handle traumatic situations. Neal says if officers show signs of having more difficulty dealing with the emotions additional resources and therapy may be offered. Officers meet with chaplains within 48 hours of handling a trauma.

 

 

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