The National Transportation Safety Board blamed a school bus driver texting for the deadly December 2014 crash that killed two students and a teacher's aide – backing the findings of a Knoxville Police Department Investigation.
The report, published late last week, said 48-year-old James Davenport was driving Bus No. 44 while distracted due to sending and receiving text messages. He made a sharp left turn, crossed a concrete median, and crashed into another school bus on Asheville Highway near Governor John Sevier Highway.
The NTSB said the probable cause of the Dec. 2, 2014 collision “was late reaction and subsequent loss of control” by Davenport “when he swerved to avoid traffic stopped ahead of him."
Knoxville police released a similar report last June.
The violent collision flipped Bus No. 57 from Sunnyview Primary School on its side. The impact killed six-year-old Zykia Burns, seven-year-old Seraya Glasper, and 46-year-old teacher's aide Kimberly Riddle. All three were dead when emergency crews arrived at the scene.
Davenport, who suffered severe injuries during the crash, died June 1, 2015, at the home he shared with his mother on Maynardville Pike in Knox County.
A WBIR 10News investigation later revealed that Davenport was texting a known prostitute prior to the accident.
The federal report, released May 5, did go into some never-before-revealed details about the conditions of the two buses.
The post-crash examination said the bus Davenport hit was “heavily damaged” mostly on its left side.
The side exit door was “nonfunctional and displaced inward into the passenger compartment,” according to the report. "The seal in the front of the side exit door was found in the folded-up position. The read exit door was found latched and was functional except for the gas struts designed to keep it open.”
The report added that the struts were present but didn’t work.
“The area around the rear exit door was littered with debris, dirt and glass,” the report states.
The left sidewall was "deformed inward," most severely, the report notes, near the midpoint of the bus. There was also a large tear in the wall.
The reports said all the primary seat structures remained intact, but "several structural mounting points were deformed or fractured in the intrusion area."
Data in the report showed Davenport had been operating the bus for only 22 minutes at the time of the crash.
"This evidence, coupled with the witness reporte that the driver was looking down as though texting just before the crash, strongly indicates that the driver's distraction, due to his reading a text message, caused him to fail to react quickly enough to avoid the collision," wrote the NTSB in the report.