Multiple Deaths After School Bus Carrying Students Collides With Dump Truck
A school bus taking fifth graders on a field trip to a New Jersey historic site collided with a dump truck Thursday morning in a deadly incident that ripped the bus apart, knocked it on its side, and killed multiple people, officials said.
The body of the bus came completely off its chassis and was resting on its side in the highway median.
"I have never seen anything like that. I can only describe it as horrific," said Mount Olive Mayor Robert Greenbaum, CBS New York reported.
The Morris County prosecutor's office said that there were multiple fatalities in the crash, but it declined to say how many or reveal the victims' identities before their families are notified.
A red dump truck with a mangled front end was parked along the highway nearby after the crash, which occurred around 10:30 a.m. E.T. The injured were rushed to area hospitals.
State police said that an unknown number of children were on the bus, which was carrying fifth grade students from East Brook Middle School in Paramus. They were on a field trip to Waterloo Village, which depicts a Lenape Indian community and once-thriving port along the Morris Canal. It is a popular site for school trips.
Students on two other buses on the field trip returned to the school Thursday morning and were reunited with their parents, said Paramus Police Commissioner Holly Tedesco. A sign outside of the school, about 50 miles from the crash site, informed people to go to the auditorium for updates on the accident, and the school was offering crisis counseling.
Seventh-grader Alejandro Garcia told The Record that students were told to return to homeroom on Thursday morning. As his classmates started searching online to see what had happened, they realized there had been an accident.
"People who I'm close friends with, who have brothers and sisters on that bus, started crying, and everybody just started sympathizing," Garcia said. "It was just a time of need for everyone."
The truck involved in the crash was registered to Mendez Trucking, of Belleville, and had "In God We Trust" emblazoned on the back of it.
Mendez Trucking has 33 drivers and 33 trucks, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Police did not immediately comment on the cause of the crash. Mendez trucks have been in seven crashes in the last two years, none of them fatal, according to FMCSA.
Mendez was fined $22,850 in 2016 for violating regulations on inspections, repairs and maintenance and post-crash drug and alcohol testing, according to the FMCSA. Mendez has a higher than average vehicle out-of-service rate, which means inspections found violations which had to be corrected before the vehicle could be returned to service. Mendez's rate was 37.9 percent, according to FMCSA. The national average is 20.7.
A message left with the company Thursday wasn't immediately returned.
Victims of the crash were taken to Morristown Medical Center, St. Joseph's Health, St. Clare's Dover Hospital and St. Clare's Denville Hospital. Information on their exact condition wasn't released.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was gathering information on the crash. The New Jersey State Department of Health's disaster team was on the scene to assist with family reunification and counseling.