Two deaths were confirmed and dozens were injured in the school bus crash
A school bus full of fifth graders en route to a field trip collided with a dump truck on a New Jersey interstate yesterday. Heartbreakingly, there have been two confirmed fatalities: a teacher and a student. Nearly everyone else on board sustained injuries.
The bus was ripped apart and knocked on its side during the crash, officials told CBS News. “I have never seen anything like that. I can only describe it as horrific,” says Mount Olive Mayor Robert Greenbaum.
The students and chaperones were on their way to a field trip to Waterloo Village, which depicts a Lenape Indian community — a popular site for field trips in the area.
The images of the crash show the bus laying sideways in the grassy median area of the interstate. It’s heartbreaking to imagine how terrified all the children and teachers on board must have felt.
One student, fifth-grader Theo Ancevski, told CBS News they heard a “scraping sound” before the bus fell over the highway. “A lot of people were screaming and hanging from their seatbelts.”
Some of the crash victims crawled out of the emergency exit in the rear of the bus or an escape hatch on the roof. Many of the kids were still inside the bus when first responders arrived on the scene, most likely too scared or injured to move.
“We had patients laying all over the median and on the interstate,” says Jeff Paul, director of the Morris County Office of Emergency Management. “There were all kinds of injuries, every injury type you could expect in a crash of his magnitude.”
According to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, there were 38 students and seven adults on board the school bus — 43 people total were transported to hospitals for treatment. According to CBS News, one child is in a medically-induced coma.
The school bus was equipped with seat belts, officials say. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road — designed specifically to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries.
That being said, of course crashes or accidents can’t be prevented 100% of the time. But the NHTSA explains that since school buses are different than passenger cars by design — and obviously much larger — they distribute crash forces much better than cars, trucks, and vans. The closely-spaced seats and energy-absorbing seat backs help protect children from the impact of crashes — with or without a seatbelt.
The crash in New Jersey is an incredibly tragic accident. According to footage from the Department of Transportation, the bus in question missed the intended exit and used a designated U-turn area for emergency vehicles to make an illegal U-turn — cutting across traffic lanes to do so.
The dump truck was traveling in the same direction and slammed into the bus as it appeared right in front of the truck. The investigation is still in the early stages, however, and no final conclusion or cause has been determined.
Our thoughts and hearts go out to the families of the student and teacher who were killed, and everyone involved.
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