Dept. of Safety: 1 driver in deadly Knoxville school bus crash not properly licensed

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

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The Tennessee Department of Safety says one of the drivers involved in a deadly Knoxville school bus crash was not licensed to drive a school bus by himself.

Spokesperson Dalya Qualls says Joe Gallman, 67, had a valid commercial driver’s license, but only a school bus endorsement permit. The permit means he was only allowed to drive a bus with another licensed school bus driver on board.

Qualls said Gallman went to the driver services center on Strawberry Plains Pike on August 2, 2013 to apply and test for his commercial driver’s license with school bus endorsement. His bus experienced mechanical problems and he was unable to take the skills test. Due to the malfunction he was ineligible for a school bus endorsement.

Qualls said the department inadvertently issued him an interim license with the school bus endorsement, but voided it while he was at the center. He was then issued the correct license, with only a school bus endorsement permit. He was then mailed his permanent license, which does not have a school bus endorsement.

Gallman did not wish to comment on the issue.

Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre showed WATE 6 On Your Side a copy of his license provided to Knox County Schools that shows the letters “PS” on his license, which according to the state DMV website, indicate endorsements for both passenger vehicles and school buses.

WATE 6 On Your Side sent a copy of the license to Qualls who said it appeared to be the voided interim license.

More online: Tennessee CDL Endorsement Table

Because of the discrepancy, McIntyre ordered a complete review of all 300 to 500 of the county’s bus drivers.

“We are going to undertake a comprehensive review of all of our contractor’s current drivers to ensure that they do in fact have the appropriate licensure,” said McIntyre.

McIntyre says if any issues are found in the review, there will be significant consequences for the contractor.

Knox County Schools says it requires proof of license before anyone is allowed to drive a school bus for the system.

Gallman was driving bus 57 serving Sunnyview Primary School. Three people on board that bus died when bus 44 from Chilhowee Intermediate School crossed over a concrete median on Asheville Highway Dec. 2 and crashed into bus 57.

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

Knox County school administrators said Sunday the contracts of Rick Fawver, who operates five school buses including bus 57, and Robert Burroughs, who operates ten school buses including bus 44, are under review by the school district pending investigation of the incident by local, state, and federal law enforcement and transportation officials.

Fawver voluntarily terminated his contract with Knox County Schools, saying, “We find ourselves at a cross roads and after much sould searching and prayers have decided to resign the contracts as we can no longer bear the weight of the responsibility of carrying this precious cargo day in and day out. We have felt honored to provide this service, but our hearts, like yours, are broken and heavy.”

Fawver said his buses have safely delivered an estimated three and a half million students in Knox County since 1967.

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