- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre has ordered a full review of all licensing documents for school bus drivers after questions arose about the qualifications of a driver involved in a fatal crash.

The Knoxville News Sentinel (https://bit.ly/1uTrjJb) reports the action came Monday, hours after the newspaper reported driving records at the Tennessee Department of Safety conflicted with the school district’s records.

Knoxville police say two buses were traveling in opposite directions on Asheville Highway when the driver of one made a sudden left turn across the concrete median and crashed into the other bus. Two children and a teacher’s aide were killed in the Dec. 2 crash.

“If any deficiencies are found in the licensure of any current drivers, there will be significant consequences for our contractors,” McIntyre said. “It is a very basic expectation of our school system and our community that all school bus drivers are properly licensed.”

State Department of Safety spokeswoman Dalya Qualls cited records showing bus driver Joe Gallman of Knoxville has a permit to operate a school bus instead of a license.

Gallman disputed that information.

“I’ve been driving for 40 years,” he said, though he declined to produce his permanent license.

Qualls said on Monday that a mechanical malfunction of his bus prevented Gallman from completing the bus certification process in August, but the testing center “inadvertently issued him an interim CDL paper license with the school bus endorsement and voided it while he was at the center.”

A document on file at Knox County Schools showing Gallman’s eligibility “would appear to have been the voided interim license,” Qualls said.

Qualls said the other driver, James Davenport, had a valid license.

Gallman was driving a bus owned by Fawver Bus Lines, which voluntarily terminated its contract on Saturday with Knox County Schools.

On Monday, the owners of Fawver Buses, LLC, said in a statement that their decision stems from wanting students and parents to feel safe.

“We personally observed the children while we were driving the bus and saw firsthand how much this incident has affected them,” the statement said. “We decided while the investigation is ongoing, the children and their families would feel safer if we were not the operator.”

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.


Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, https://www.knoxnews.com

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