Child killed by school bus

By Dean Manning

For the Mountain Advocate

A 10-year-old Rockholds boy was killed Monday when he was hit by a school bus. The boy was scheduled to go to Lexington Saturday for a shopping trip through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Officials with Make-A-Wish’s Louisville office said Jonathan A. Chatham, who had previously won a battle against Leukemia, wanted to shop for electronic items, including an X-Box.

Heather Powers, who knew the family through Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, said Chatham’s Leukemia had been in remission for about a year after two years of treatment at the University of Kentucky Cancer Center.

Powers recalled taking Chatham and his family to Lexington for his treatments, explaining how well mannered Jonathan was.

“I will never forget after chemo he always wanted to go to Wendy’s and get two junior bacon cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, and a big frosty, but always ate every bite of it,” Powers said.

“We are all just heartbroken,” she said.

Powers added that Jonathan enjoyed being outside. When he couldn’t do that, he could be found playing with his Pokemon cards or playing video games.

“They are pretty much in shock,” Powers said of the family.

Pleasant Grove Baptist Church is accepting donations for the family. The phone number at the church is 549-0652.

In addition, an account has been established at gofundme.com. The account is titled R.I.P. Jonathan Chatham

The fourth-grade student at Whitley North Elementary School had just gotten off the bus about 4:20 p.m. Monday near his home on Ky. 779 with three other children.

Kentucky State Police stated that as the bus began moving away from the stop, Chatham darted back in front of it and was struck and killed.

Whitley County Coroner J. Andrew Croley said it is unknown why Chatham crossed back into the path of the bus.

Whitley County School officials identified the bus driver as 33-year-old Amanda Woliver.

Woliver has driven a bus for more than two years.

“During this time she has driven an average of over 120 miles per day incident free and has driven for numerous field trips and extracurricular activities both during the school day and after,” officials stated.

Whitley County Schools Transportation Director Bobby Blakley stated that Woliver’s training and physicals are all up to date.

“Amanda has always been a good employee,” Blakley stated.

An investigation into the bus, driver records, maintenance records and bus inspection sheets by the Kentucky Department of Education’s Pupil Transportation Department has found everything to be in order.

Woliver has been placed on paid suspension while Kentucky State Police complete the investigation.

Police do not expect drugs or alcohol were factors in the accident.

Officials at the scene said there were approximately 20 other children on the bus at the time.

A second bus was brought in to finish the route. Parents and guardians were notified and children were released to their custody.

Whitley County Sheriff Colan Harrell, who was assisting at the scene, was charged with taking several of the students home, including one that suffered a panic attack.

Whitley County Schools Superintendent Scott Paul and other school system administrators also responded to the scene. Classes for the Whitley County School System were canceled for Tuesday.

A grief counselor will ride the bus on that route today. In addition, there will be grief counselors available at Whitley North Elementary.

Whitley County officials said the grief counselors will be available at the school for as long as the students need their services.

“The Whitley County School District would like to thank all those who have offered their support and services during this time of mourning and grieving,” officials stated. “Please continue to keep all those involved in your thoughts and prayers during the difficult days ahead.”

KSP Trooper Craig Reed is continuing the investigation. He was assisted at the scene by Troopers from Post 11, Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement Officers, Kentucky State Police Collision Analysis Officer Jerry Jones, Whitley County Sheriff’s Office, Whitley County EMS and Woodbine Fire Department.