BY KEN LITTLE
More serious charges were filed Tuesday against the woman driving a Washington County school bus that rolled over and crashed Sept. 20 on Mount Wesley Road.
A Washington County grand jury met and handed up 39 felony counts of reckless aggravated assault against Brenda Gray in connection with the wreck, which resulted in injuries requiring hospitalization for at least 26 of the 39 David Crockett High School students on board.
Gray, 54, of Jonesborough, was also indicted on single counts of reckless endangerment and speeding, a court official said today.
She remains free on $50,000 bond pending a Jan. 22 arraignment in Washington County Criminal Court.
Gray had initially been charged with eight counts of reckless aggravated assault and 31 counts of felony reckless endangerment, one charge for every student on the bus at the time of the crash.
The indictments handed up by the grand jury could result in a stiffer sentence for Gray, court officials said.
The full-size bus went out of control on a downhill grade after Gray topped the hill, a Tennessee Highway Patrol investigator said at Gray's preliminary hearing last year.
THP investigators who testified at the hearing said that the school bus was traveling at a speed of between 52 and 60 mph when Gray lost control and the bus overturned.
The bus was traveling nearly twice the posted speed limit on the two-lane, twisting road in Telford, investigators said. The speed limit on the road is 30 mph.
The 1997-model bus being driven by Gray was not the usual bus assigned to that route, troopers testified.
Just before the bus topped a hill, Gray "asked if we wanted to lose our stomachs before we go over the hill," 14-year-old bus passenger Shannon R. Warren testified at the hearing.
The student said that Gray made the statement just before the bus topped a hill on Mount Wesley Road.
Gray told troopers after the crash "she was the bus driver [and] she was traveling down Mount Wesley Road and was distracted by some children."
She told investigators that the bus went off the narrow, winding road, "came back across and the bus turned over."