A bus carrying high school students was badly mangled when it struck a highway overpass in Long Island on Sunday night, injuring more than 40 people, 38 of whom were high school students.
The charter bus was traveling on the Southern State Parkway in Lakeview when the accident occurred. The damage from the accident was immense; Lakeview Fire Department Chief Patrick McNeill described the roof of the bus as crushed “down to the top of the seat covers.” The driver was apparently unaware of the impending danger, as the bus was going so fast that it managed to make it “all the way through” the overpass.
Commercial vehicles such as this charter bus are not allowed on New York State parkways because of the low clearance of many of the bridges, which are lower than the standard height of other states. The overpass struck in this instance is known to be one of the lowest in the area, with a clearance of 7 feet, 10 inches.
The riders of the bus were a group of 38 students from various Long Island high schools, along with five chaperones, who were on their way back from JFK having just returned from a Spring Break trip to Europe. The bus was headed towards Walt Whitman Mall in Suffolk County to meet up with parents of the students, police said. This was not a school-sanctioned trip.
In a press conference given at the scene, New York State Police Maj. David Candelaria said that there were “one very serious, five serious [and] thirty-seven minor injuries.”
So far, no casualties have been reported, and it seems the quick response and thorough efforts of emergency services are to thank for that.
“This was treated as a mass-casualty incident,” said Candelaria. “I give credit [to] the Nassau County Police ambulance bureau’s emergency services and the Lakeview Volunteer Fire Department. They set up a mass-casualty treatment triage and probably saved lives.”
The crash is currently under investigation. The driver of the bus, which is operated by New Jersey-based Journey Bus Lines, will undergo drug and alcohol testing.
This is a horrifying incident for all involved, particularly the high school students excited to return home after a vacation overseas. We wish all the passengers a swift and full recovery.
Nobody should have to be injured when they step on a bus. Particularly when riders observe proper riding protocol, your safety on a bus or any type of public transit should be guaranteed.
The issue of tall commercial vehicles striking bridges, particularly on Long Island parkways, is not a new one. In December of 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the “installation of new technology that will help stop over-height vehicles from entering Long Island parkways in order to prevent dangerous bridge strikes on low parkway overpasses.”
The way the new safety system is meant to work is detectors at the top of a ramp will “relay an invisible beam that is set at a specific bridge clearance height for the area.” Then, when an over-height vehicle drives through and triggers the beam, a full color LED message lights up to warn the driver of the impending danger.
This system was going to be installed at 13 locations in Nassau and Suffolk counties, “determined from places where trucks have been known to improperly enter parkways.” It is unclear whether the entrance the driver took had this new safety system installed, or if the driver should have seen warnings.
More will follow on this accident, which has surely been so traumatic for the individuals involved, particularly the high school students, who are reported to all be between the ages of 16 and 18. In any case, when you get on a bus, you have a right to safety. When that safety is betrayed, you will need an experienced personal injury lawyer at your side.
Block O’Toole & Murphy has recovered numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements for victims of bus accidents for New Yorkers regardless of city or county:
- $6,000,000 settlement for a man who was seriously injured when a flatbed truck struck a bus attempting to make a right turn
- $3,500,000 settlement for a bus operator who suffered neck, back and shoulder injuries when he was rear-ended by a sanitation truck
- $3,000,000 settlement for a man who was seriously injured in Brooklyn when he was struck by an MTA bus