School Bus in Deadly I-80 Crash was Trying to Make U-turn, Report Says
MOUNT OLIVE — A town continues to grieve for the loss of a fifth-grader and a teacher as new information emerges about what caused the horrific crash of their bus on Interstate 80 during a class trip.
The bus, carrying 43 students and chaperones headed to Waterloo Village from the East Brook Middle School in Paramus, may have crossed three lanes of traffic into the path of the dump truck while trying to make a U-turn after missing its exit, according to NBC 4 New York, citing Department of Transportation traffic camera footage described by multiple sources.
State Police and the Morris County Prosecutor's Office are investigating the crash and have not disclosed what led to it. The bus entered I-80 from southbound Route 206 and collided with a Kenilworth dump truck, according to a release by State Police.
The bus wound up on a guardrail close to a spot for emergency vehicles to make a U-Turn onto the highway. A sign there reads "No Turns."
The impact caused the bus to overturn onto its side, and the chassis to separate from the section carrying students.
As reported Thursday by New Jersey 101.5, the company that owns the dump truck has a troubled history of crashes and failed inspections, federal records show. The Paramus school district’s bus fleet, meanwhile, also had six buses that failed safety inspections in December, state records show.
A purple ribbon was tied to a utility pole Friday morning outside the East Brook Middle School, according to a tweet by a reporter following Thursday's crash.
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Mount Olive Mayor Richard Greenbaum, who watched the scene from an overpass on Thursday, wrote on his Facebook page, "I just can’t imagine the loss and pain suffered by the involved families. We stand with you as if it were our loved ones involved." His page was topped a banner that read "Prayers for Paramus."
"It was a rough scene to see," Jeff Paul, director of the Morris County Office of Emergency Management, said. "When I arrived there were children lying all over the place."
Gov. Phil Murphy on his Twitter account said he and First Lady Tammy Murphy visited families and injured students on Thursday night.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with all families and school officials affected by today’s tragedy," wrote Murphy, who earlier met with staff and parents at the East Brook Middle School and announced details of the crash as a press conference.
The identities of the teacher and the student have not been disclosed by authorities. A family member who did not give their name told the New York Times the teacher was Jennifer Williamson, a Paramus native and a social studies teacher.
State records indicate she was a 19-year veteran teacher. Former students left condolences on her RateMyTeachers.com page.
"Ms. Williamson was my 5th grade teacher and she was super nice! She always would explain everything thoroughly and made it all fun. Sad to see you go though :'( I'll miss you! RIP," wrote one unidentified former student.
"One of the teachers that made my middle school years memorable. an easy, yet tough, yet fair teacher. kind to everyone, sweet to everyone, she truly loved what she did. i miss you so much. rip<3," wrote another.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.