Bus driver asked if students wanted to ‘lose their stomachs’

Becky Campbell • Nov 13, 2012 at 9:18 PM

A David Crockett High School student injured in a school bus rollover crash in September testified Tuesday that the driver asked students if they wanted to “lose their stomachs” just moments before the bus went off the road.

The 14-year-old’s testimony was presented during the preliminary hearing for Brenda K. Gray, 54, of Jonesborough.

Gray is charged with eight counts of reckless aggravated assault, 31 counts of felony reckless endangerment, speeding, reckless driving and failure to exercise due care.

There is an assault or endangerment charge for each of the 39 students on the bus.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper James Fillers was part of the team that investigated the crash that happened around 3 p.m. Sept. 20 on Mount Wesley Road.

Fillers testified about the complex methods used to determine how fast Gray was driving when the wreck happened. He said he determined her speed was between 52 and 60 mph in a 30 mph zone.

Trooper William Shelton testified Gray told him she was “distracted by students” just before she ran off the road.

Investigators have said Gray topped a hill in a curve, went off the left side of the road then overcorrected and went off the right side of the road. Then the bus turned over and rolled once.

Renee Warren was the only student on the bus who testified at the hearing, and that was just by chance.

After the hearing, Warren said she “just wanted to be here” for the hearing and was sitting with her friend, Chyenne Bunton, one of the most seriously injured students, when a prosecutor approached her and asked her to testify.

Warren testified she didn’t remember the crash itself, but did recall the seconds before.

“We were playing a high-five game. Ms. Gray asked who wanted to lose their stomachs,” she said.

Warren said after the hearing that she recalls only one other day Gray asking that question.

Warren suffered a hairline fracture in her lower back and ankle, she said.

She also said she likes Gray and that the driver was nice to the students, but that Gray should be punished for what happened.

If Gray is convicted, the eight reckless aggravated assault charges carry two to four years each and the felony reckless endangerment charges carry one to two years each.

She is free on a $50,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in Washington County Criminal Court Jan. 22.

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