The town of Mount Olive, New Jersey was the site of a deadly collision last Thursday. According to officials, a teacher and a student were killed when a school bus they were riding crashed into a dump truck on Interstate 80 westbound near Route 206 – approximately 50 miles outside of New York City.
Student and teacher killed in school bus collision
Witnesses told CBS2 News that the bus, which was taking middle schoolers on a field trip, missed an exit and was attempting to make a U-turn when the accident occurred. The school bus, from Paramus’ East Brook Middle School, was carrying a group of fifth graders and their teachers. A total of seven adults and 38 students were aboard the bus when the vehicle was broad sided by a dump truck. The grisly collision left 2 dead and 44 injured, of which 43 were hospitalized.
The two fatalities included Jennifer Williamson, a 51-year old teacher at East Brooke Middle School, and a student whose identity has not yet been confirmed. The collision occurred less than one mile from the field trip destination: Waterloo Village. As authorities continue to investigate the crash, traffic experts are raising concerns about school bus safety, particularly in relation to their performance in side-impact collisions like this one.
According to federal figures, school buses are among the safest passenger vehicles on the road. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show a rate of 0.2 fatalities for every 100 million miles driven by school buses, compared with 1.5 deaths for every 100 million miles driven in standard passenger vehicles.
While all school buses in New Jersey are equipped with seat belts, this safety measure did little to protect the occupants. The bus was “sheared apart” during the impact, with part of the ravaged vehicle left in the median at a 45-degree angle. There were passengers entrapped in the wreckage and others who were ejected from their seats.
“I have never seen anything like that. I can only describe it as horrific,” said Mount Olive Mayor Robert Greenbaum.
Liability issues in bus accidents
There are important factors to consider when determining liability in a school bus accident. Was one of the drivers negligent in their actions? Were the standards of care met? Was a driver distracted or speeding? Was a mechanical issue to blame? Was the bus in safe operating condition? Was an illegal maneuver or traffic violation committed?
There are comprehensive state and federal standards that apply to the licensing of school bus drivers, their requirements and their training. Only thorough investigations of accident reports can identify liable parties and if standards of care were truly breached.
If a bus driver’s actions or inactions contributed to an accident, a number of parties may be held responsible in a court of law. These include:
- The school district
- The bus driver
- Insurance company
- Third-party contracting company
Other potential defendants in bus collisions include another negligent driver or vehicle parts manufacturers who distributed faulty or defective parts that contributed to the crash.
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Additional Resources on NJ School Bus Crash:
- Yahoo News, NJ school bus collision leaves 2 dead, some critically hurt https://www.yahoo.com/gma/school-bus-collides-dump-truck-jersey-injuries-reported-150103465–abc-news-topstories.html
- CBS News New York, Student, Teacher Killed When School Bus, Dump Truck Collide In Mount Olive, N.J. http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2018/05/17/mount-olive-school-bus-crash/
- NorthJersey.com, Why was Paramus school bus crash so violent? Buses vulnerable to side impact, experts say https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/transportation/2018/05/19/paramus-school-bus-crash-buses-vulnerable-side-impact/624350002/