Traffic Cam Confirms: School Bus Crossed 3 Lanes After Missing Exit
MOUNT OLIVE — The school bus in a crash that killed a Paramus fifth-grade student and teacher appears to have missed its exit and then rapidly crossed three lanes of traffic before it was struck by a dump truck, according to officials who have seen video of the collision.
Department of Transportation officials who saw video of the Thursday morning crash describe it as one of the worst images they have ever seen. The footage, which was recorded by a traffic camera perched on an overpass, has not been released to the public.
According to an official who saw the video, but who did not want to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the press, the school bus got on Interstate 80 West from a Route 206 ramp.
Immediately after getting on the interstate, the bus appears to make a bee line toward an emergency road that cuts through the grassy median of the interstate.
"The dump truck was in the second lane from the right. He was going straight, clipped the bus as it was crossing all four lanes to get to the emergency vehicle road to make the U-turn," the official said, adding that the truck would have missed the bus if the bus had been going a bit faster.
"The dump truck hit the back of the school bus so hard that it essentially took off the whole end. I don't know how that driver is alive," the official said.
"I talked to someone who's been here over 30 years. They said this is the worst crash they've seen. They've never seen a bus come apart like that."
The official said it didn't appear that the dump truck was speeding.
The exit, which is supposed to be used by emergency and official vehicles only, connects to the eastbound lanes. It is marked by a sign that says "NO TURNS."
The bus was one of three headed on a class trip to Waterloo Village. The bus appears to have missed the exit for Waterloo Village, which is marked on Route 206.
Instead, the bus took the I-80 exit more than a 1/3 of a mile ahead.
The bus would have to drive almost perpendicular to the interstate in order to get into the emergency lane.
According to Google Map directions, if the bus had taken the Waterloo exit on 206, the bus would have arrived at the tourist site in about four minutes. Taking I-80, however, would have taken 20 minutes if the bus had made a legal U-turn after 5 miles.
The bus was carrying 38 students from East Brook Middle School and seven adults.
The collision sheared the cabin of the bus from its undercarriage, leaving the cabin on its side.
Jennifer Williams, 51, of Paramus, and a 10-year-old girl who Morris County prosecutors declined to publicly name, died.
Officials say most of the dozens of people hurt in the accident have been discharged.
The owner of the dump truck's company says he's "deeply saddened" by the accident. Mendez Trucking Co. owner Juan Munoz on Friday called the wreck a terrible tragedy.
Munoz's attorney says the company is cooperating with authorities as they investigate.
Gov. Phil Murphy has ordered flags at state buildings to be flown at half-staff on Monday.
State Sen. Joseph Lagana, D-Bergen, said Friday that he wants a special transportation committee hearing to analyze safety standards, review best practices and compare New Jersey with other states. The chairman of the committee and the senate president both say they support the idea.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.