Paramus Public Schools in N.J. issued a statement on last week’s fatal crash involving one of its school buses that was engaged in a field trip and a dump truck.
“As many are now aware, on Thursday morning, May 17th, a Paramus School District bus was involved in a tragic accident when it collided with a dump truck on Route 80, near Mount Olive Township in Morris County. Words cannot adequately express the grief and profound anguish resonating throughout the District, and the entire Paramus Community, as we try to come to terms with the impact of this tragedy and the lives it has affected.
The District’s schools opened on time this morning in order for our community to come together and grieve as a school family, and our amazing staff has been supporting our students in every way possible. We have implemented our crisis support plan and have counselors from Paramus and area districts in every building working with our students and staff to process our loss. We urge our parents to talk to their children and seek the assistance of these trained professionals.
While we wish that answers could be immediately provided to all of the questions running through our heads, the investigation remains ongoing and we must defer to the capable and knowledgeable professionals diligently working to provide us with those answers. As soon as more information becomes available to us, it will be made immediately available to the public.
The Board of Education is grateful to the Paramus Police Department and the Mayor for their tireless work on behalf of our school community. Their efforts to coordinate with first responders and provide logistical support for parent unification have been the actions we train for and never hope to need.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Phil Murphy directed that all U.S. and state flags at all state buildings and facilities fly at half-staff in honor of the two victims who died as a result of the crash on Thursday. Additionally, approximately 45 people reportedly suffered injuries. Media reports also put the number of students on board the school bus at 38 with another seven adults accompanying them.
The Governor’s Office Executive Order #26 reads:
“...WHEREAS, it is appropriate to recognize and honor the devastating passing of Jennifer Marie Williamson-Kennedy, a veteran educator of more than 20 years in Paramus, and a fifth-grade student of East Brook Middle School who had a bright, promising future; and NOW, THEREFORE, I, PHILIP D. MURPHY, Governor of the State of New Jersey, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and by the Statutes of this State, do hereby ORDER and DIRECT:
1. The flag of the United States of America and the flag of the State of New Jersey shall be flown at half-staff at all State departments, offices, agencies, and instrumentalities during appropriate hours on Monday, May 21, 2018, in recognition and mourning of the passing of the deceased in Mount Olive, New Jersey. ...”
Funeral services were held earlier Monday for the 10-year-old girl that was killed in the accident, while services will be held on Thursday for the deceased school teacher, 51, according to several news reports.
Some of the injured school students still remain in the hospital, as of today, Monday.
Democratic state Sen. Joseph Lagana announced last week that he wants to hold a hearing on safety standards and how N.J. compares to other states.
Alumni of the school last week launched a GoFundMe campaign, to be used to help with the “medical bills, a memorial or maybe even a scholarship.” As of Monday afternoon, the campaign had raised $36,215 of its $30,000 goal, with donations made by 502 people in only three days.
A GoFundMe campaign was also established for the family of the 10-year-old student who died. By Monday afternoon it had rasied $89,904 of its $20,000 goal within only two days, with donations received from 2,008 contributors.
Some of the student victims remain in critical condition. Sofia Evelich of Paramus suffered severe head trauma and remained in critical condition in a pediatric intensive care unit, according to her brother’s GoFundMe page for his little sister. “Sofia has a long recovery ahead of her, but she is resilient and a fighter,” he reported. “My parents have not left her side and will need to continue to be by her side as we face the long and challenging road that lies ahead of her.” As of Monday afternoon, $21,689 of its $20,000 goal has been raised in only 18 hours, from 324 contributors.
News reports on Friday stated that the school bus made a sudden illegal u-turn across several lanes of traffic after 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 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, N.J. NHTSA will take appropriate action based on its review.”
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