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Autopsy: Prescribed drugs in dead school bus driver's system

Autopsy results show prescribed drugs in the system of school bus driver James Davenport when he died in early June 2015.
Knox County school bus driver James Davenport.

(WBIR - Knoxville) The driver of a Knox County school bus who was texting moments before he caused the deadly December 2014 that killed three people had prescription painkillers in his system when he died earlier this month.

The painkillers in 48-year-old James Davenport's system were prescribed and not the cause of his death, according to the autopsy.

James Davenport was found dead on June 1 at the home where he lived with his mother on Maynardville Pike. Officials at the time listed the cause as a "natural death."

June 3, 2015: School bus driver involved in 2014 KCS crash dies

Davenport was driving a school bus carrying students from Chilhowee Intermediate School on Dec. 2, 2014, when he made a sharp turn on Asheville Highway before crossing the median and running into another bus driven by Joe Gallman, causing it to flip over.

Authorities, while searching the wreckage, found Davenport's fanny pack on the bus he drove. It contained three prescription pain medications, including morphine and oxycodone.

Davenport denied taking any of the pills on the day of the wreck. Toxicology tests later confirmed that he had no drugs in his system. Blood was taken from him the day of the crash.

An investigation by Knoxville police into the cause of the deadly bus crash blamed Davenport for sending and receiving multiple text messages, including dozens to a prostitute, while behind the wheel of a loaded school bus.

June 24, 2015: School bus driver texted prostitute during fatal crash

Two Sunnyview Primary students, 6-year-old Zykia Burns and 7-year Seraya Glasper and a Sunnyview teachers' aide, 46-year-old Kimberly Riddle, died in the crash.

Davenport also was taken to University of Tennessee Medical Center because of injuries, including damage to his legs. It's not known how long he was a patient, but records and interviews suggest that it was at least a month.

In the days and weeks following the crash, Davenport told investigators he had back and lung problems and was supposed to take one 30 mg morphine pill in the morning and one in the evening, and to take one 10 mg oxycodone pill "as needed," but no more than twice a day, according to records.

"I don't usually take it unless I absolutely need it," he told a KPD investigator during a Dec. 9 interview. "(The doctors) said don't take it while operating (a bus)."

He said he took the oxycodone "every three or four days, and sometimes I go a week without it."

Davenport said he had back surgery for two slipped discs and a pinched nerve in his right leg. He started applying for disability two years ago, and was denied twice. He was in the process of appealing before he died.

Davenport said a "pain clinic" gave him the medication on the day of the wreck.

Authorities place the blame of the accident on Davenport, but there's not much they can do now that he's dead.

June 5, 2015: Deadly distraction: school bus driver texting caused fatal crash

The other bus driver, Joe B. Gallman, 68, was cited for operating a school bus without proper endorsement. The citation is a misdemeanor and carries a fine of no more than $50.

Gallman faces an Aug. 7 date in Knox County General Sessions Court.