Deadly New Jersey School Bus Crash

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

CBS News Source: Driver In Deadly NJ Bus Crash Was Trying To Make Risky Turn On Route 80

May 18, 2018 - 3:22 pm
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PARAMUS, N.J. (WCBS 880) -- Video of the deadly New Jersey school bus crash apparently shows the bus driver attempted a U-turn by turning from an access road across the interstate when it was hit by a dump truck. 

The video from the New Jersey Department of Transportation has not been made public, but a source who watched it tells CBS News the bus got off at the exit for Waterloo Village, where the East Brook Middle School students were heading on a field trip, but the driver made a wrong turn and headed back to Interstate 80, WCBS 880's Alex Silverman reported. Then instead of merging onto the highway, he tried to make a sharp left from the accress road across three lanes of traffic toward a turnaround that's restricted to official vehicles. At that point, a dump truck traveling westbound crashed slammed into the rear of the bus, separating the cabin of the yellow bus from its chassis.

The bus flipped on its side over a guard rail and came to rest on the grassy median in Mount Olive. 

PHOTOS: Deadly New Jersey School Bus Crash

There were 38 fifth grade students and seven adults, including the driver, on the bus.

A student who was on the bus said, "I heard a scraping noise and then the bus tilted over. A lot of them got cuts and scrapes, a few of them got out of the windows and they got out of the emergency exit on the top on the roof."

Jennifer Marie Williamson, a popular social studies teacher, was killed. She grew up in Paramus. Her father died when she was a child and her brother died in a car wreck in the 1980s.

Jennifer Williamson
Photo Credit: Kennedy Family

Her husband released a statement along with photos of his wife on the day of their wedding saying, “My beautiful bride and I have been in total love every day of our lives since the day our eyes met on 5/5/94. I am in shock, devastated and totally crushed by today's tragedy to both sides of the Willamson-Kennedy families, the community she taught and the thousands of students and their families she was very proud to serve.”

The fifth grade student killed in the crash has not been identified. Her twin sister was on the field trip in another bus.

Several students remain hospitalized.

Grieving parents and students have placed bouquets of flowers and notes under the East Brook Middle School sign. Grief counselors were at the school Friday morning to help the school community cope with the tragedy.

"She was definitely one of my favorite teachers, she cared a lot about every student that she had," a 13-year-student said of Williamson as she arrived at school Friday. "I didn't know if I was going to come in. I just wanted to see all my friends."

"I fell like everybody's going to be crying, which when other people cry I cry," said Marissa, a sixth grader who said she wants to be with her friends to mourn the tragedy. "A lot of my good friends were on that bus and it's scary to think about what happened."

The trucking company, Mendez Trucking in Belleville, has 247 safety violations over the past two years, 13 driving citations and eight accidents.

There has been no word from prosecutors on what charges might await the driver who worked for the Paramus board of education.