A school bus and dump truck violently collided on New Jersey Highway 80 Thursday morning, resulting in two fatalities and several dozen 5th graders being sent to six nearby hospitals with serious injuries, several news reports said. The local ABC TV station, ABC 13, reported that 45 people suffered injuries, while other media outlets reported 43 injured. FoxNews said that there were 38 students and seven adults inside the bus.
The governor announced that there were also critical injuries among the passengers, with some parents telling reporters that many children were ejected from the bus.
Several nearby hospitals and trauma centers were still accepting crash patients until late yesterday (Thursday), said USA Today.
No official cause of the Thursday morning crash was announced at this report. However, a few news reports this morning, Friday, assert that the bus made a sudden illegal u-turn across several lanes of traffic when the driver apparently realized that he had missed the intended exit, multiple sources claimed. “A dump truck traveling in the same direction slammed into the bus as it suddenly appeared in front of him, the sources said, citing DOT footage. The investigation is still early and no conclusion has been reached," said NBC 4 in New York. “The school bus driver is still being treated for injuries and has not yet been interviewed,” NBC said.
On Friday afternoon, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) told School Transportation News, “Consistent with NHTSA’s oversight and authority over the safety of all motor vehicles and equipment, the agency has sent its special crash investigations team to gather information on the school bus crash near Mount Olive, NJ. NHTSA will take appropriate action based on its review.”
Northjersey.com, part of the USA Today network, stated Friday morning that, “The driver of the Paramus school bus that collided yesterday with a dump truck on Route 80 was apparently trying to use the highway’s police turnaround to pull onto its eastbound lanes, a source close to the investigation said.” The crash impact apparently caused the bus to tip over and come to a halt between the two lanes of traffic.
The two vehicles have now been towed away, and the teacher who died, and the dump truck driver/company, have been publicly identified.
On Thursday morning, about 20 ambulances responded to the scene, according to several news reports. The two fatalities at this report were one teacher and one student, various sources concurred. Photos posted online showed the front section of the school bus completely crushed to a fraction of its original size. As of Friday morning PST, no further deaths have been announced.
The New Jersey Dept. of Transportation said on Twitter that I-80, west of Exit 25 - Rte. 206 (Mount Olive Township in Morris County, N.J. approximately 50 miles west of New York City) was “closed in both directions due to (the bus) accident. Use alternate routes, use caution. Expect delays.”
NorthJersey FireNews reported “numerous ejections.” The bus—most of it, anyway—came to rest on its side in the grassy median between the two directions of the highway in the mid-morning crash, photos posted on Twitter showed. The red-colored dump truck ended-up some distance away from the bus, photos showed.
NBC New York, Channel 4, said there were two fatalities so far, one student and one adult teacher chaperone.
Students on the bus told reporters that seat belts were in fact being worn, since many of them were hanging from the restraints when the bus rolled over. “All New Jersey school buses are required to be equipped with seatbelts,” noted CBS TV 2 in New York.
“There is no federal requirement for seat belts on full-sized school buses, but six states, including New Jersey, require them,” noted NBC 4 in Los Angeles.
Related: School bus crashes in New Jersey
However, other news reports claimed the fatalities were the two drivers, but reports today said that the two fatalities were one student and one teacher. News reports also conflicted regarding the time of the event, with most media outlets claiming it occurred at 10:28 a.m. local time Thursday, while others claimed it happened approximately four hours earlier.
The UK Daily Mail and USA Today said the school bus is from East Brook Middle School in Paramus, N.J., and was believed to be carrying 5th graders on a field trip. My Central Jersey (part of the USA Today network), said the bus was part of a group of three buses, but the other two buses were reportedly not involved in today’s event.
Several hours after the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced it is investigating the crash, then about one hour later, NTSB Twitted that “NTSB [is] not investigating the school bus crash in New Jersey.”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was briefed on the situation Thursday, and later that day held a press conference. The highway remained shut down until late Thursday; today, Friday, it is open.
News reports said that state police have now interviewed the dump truck driver.
Also, school officials announced a cancellation of all field trips for the rest of the current school year.
• The Paramus Police Department established a hotline that will continue to be updated when needed: 888-407-9628.
• The USA Today network said, “State police brought in K-9s and searched the woods and areas near the bus accident scene at about 12:30 p.m.”
• At 10:54 a.m. local time, Governor Phil Murphy Tweeted, “Just arrived on scene at East Brook Middle School in Paramus - the local command center for the school bus crash earlier today on Route 80. Our hearts are broken by today’s tragedy.” Later in the day, he announced that one fifth grader and one teacher were killed, with 43 of 45 passengers hurt and the injured sent to six hospitals.
• New Jersey State Police are also investigating, they Tweeted at 8:11 a.m. EST Thursday morning. On Friday morning, NJSP posted at its Facebook page that, the “crash remains an active investigation by the New Jersey State Police and Morris County Prosecutor’s Office.”
• News reports claimed that the injured were transported to Morristown Medical Center, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Hackettstown Medical Center. Associated Press (AP) reported that some injured were also sent to St. Clare’s Denville Hospital and St. Clare’s Dover Hospital.
• An AP photo of the red dump truck showed the front cab portion totally crushed, all the way up to the edge of the front window.
• United Press International (UPI) stated that the bus had 46 children on board.
• Multiple news reports said that passing drivers immediately stopped to help pull children from the bus, and first responders quickly rescued others; no persons were reported yesterday to be still trapped inside of the vehicle.
• There have been no official announcements yet regarding what company manufactured the school bus. The operator of the dump truck was identified as Mendez Trucking in news reports.
• School officials said the “bus driver is a district employee, and the school bus is owned by the Paramus Public Schools,” reported the Washington Post.
• Faculty, staff and students reportedly returned to classes Friday at East Brook Middle School.
• The school remains heavily guarded by the Paramus Police Department and Bergen County Sheriff’s officers, noted NewJersey.com.