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School Bus Driver’s Mom Defends Him After Crash Kills 5: A ‘Horrible Accident of God’s Will’

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The mother of the school bus driver charged in the fatal bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee — which killed five elementary school students and critically injured several more — says her son tried to help the children injured in what she termed a “horrible accident.”

Gwenevere Cook told NBC News that her son, Johnthony Walker, called her moments after Monday’s crash. She said he tried to pull children out of the wreckage after the bus slammed into a tree and flipped over, but there was blood everywhere.

“My heart of love is going out to all that were in harm’s way in this horrible accident of God’s will,” she said.

Although an arrest report obtained by PEOPLE alleges the 24-year-old driver “was driving the school bus at a high rate of speed, well above the posted speed limit” of 30 mph, Cook said she believes the crash was an accident. She shared that Walker has a 3-year-old child, and that Walker is also scarred by the crash.

“I pray we all can get this some way without judging my son,” she said. “It happened. God don’t make mistakes. We do.”

Johnthony Walker
Hamilton County Jail

Chattanooga police charged Walker with five counts of vehicular homicide Tuesday, as well as one count of reckless driving and one court of reckless endangerment.

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According to records obtained by PEOPLE, Monday’s crash was Walker’s second traffic collision while driving a school bus in as many months.

On Sept. 20, Walker allegedly crossed the center line and sideswiped a vehicle that was traveling in the opposite direction, according to state records. The collision occurred when Walker allegedly failed to yield at a blind curve, resulting in $400 in damage, the records show. No one was injured in the crash, and it is unclear if there were any students on the bus at the time. The results of chemical testing showed Walker had no alcohol or drugs in his system.

Walker’s license was previously suspended for more than a year for failure to show proof of insurance, beginning in March 2014, and it was reinstated on March 28, 2015, a Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security spokeswoman confirmed to PEOPLE.

Walker had no criminal history in Tennessee prior to his Monday arrest, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Bruce Garner/Chattanooga Fire Department via Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP

Three of the young victims  who included three fourth-graders, a first-grader and a kindergartner —  have been identified by their families and friends. Zyanna Harris, 10, Cordayja Jones, 9, and Zoie Nash, 9, were killed.

Walker is being held on bond of $107,500 and his first court appearance is Nov. 29 at 8:30 a.m., a Hamilton County Court official told PEOPLE, adding that he had not yet entered a plea or retained an attorney as of Tuesday afternoon.