Two people, a teacher and a 10-year-old student, were tragically killed when the school bus they were riding attempted an illegal U-turn on I-80 West and collided with a dump truck on early May 17, 2018 in Mount Olive, New Jersey.
Shockingly, it’s now being reported by NJ.com that video captured from an overpass shows the bus merging onto the highway and abruptly swerving left across three lanes of highway traffic to attempt an illegal U-turn by utilizing the cut-through on the median reserved for police and other emergency vehicles.
The bus, which was being driven by 77-year-old retiree Hudy Muldrow Sr., was carrying fifth-graders from East Brook Middle School in Paramus, NJ, to Waterloo Village for a field trip. At some point, it got separated from the two other buses it was traveling with, at which point the driver apparently tried to make an illegal U-turn from westbound to eastbound Interstate 80.
The force of the crash which occurred as a result of this incredibly irresponsible maneuver was so severe that the top of the school bus was completely sheared off from its undercarriage, killing two people and leaving the bus an overturned wreck on the grassy median.
The two people killed in this tragic accident were Jennifer Marie-Williamson, a beloved fifth-grade teacher with more than 20 years’ experience, and a 10-year-old girl who leaves behind a grieving family, including her twin sister. Besides these two victims, the other 43 people on the bus, which carried 37 other school children, were also injured. Multiple people were critically injured, including one child who had to be placed in a medically-induced coma.
One student who was interviewed said that, in the immediate aftermath of the accident, many students were hanging from their seatbelts in the overturned bus. To get to safety, he and several other students were forced to crawl out of windows and the emergency exit on the roof of the bus. CBS reported that canine units were brought to search through the wreckage to find any passengers who may have been ejected in this brutal crash.
Part of the tragedy of this accident is how rare fatal school bus accidents are. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, there were 320,874 fatal motor vehicle accidents between 2007 and 2016, and of these, 1,147 (0.4%) were school-transportation-related.
This is partly because buses are generally well-equipped to handle front-end and rear-end collisions. According to Jennifer Jermakian, a senior research engineer at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “School buses have been optimized for safety in the environment they typically operate in.”
The materials and structures which help keep children in school buses safe, however, are less effective at highway speeds. Most importantly, school buses are not designed to absorb collisions from the side, which their bright yellow color is intended to help prevent.
“When you have crash forces coming from the sides,” said Jermakian, “you don’t have that same energy-absorbing material and structure.”
The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and the New Jersey State Police will be jointly investigating this senseless and tragic incident. This will include interviewing both drivers, who each survived, and testing them for evidence of drugs and alcohol. Police will also want to determine the speed each vehicle was going at the time of the accident and interview any witnesses and review any footage that may be available.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all involved in this horrifying and heart-breaking incident. What should have been a fun field trip has now irrevocably devastated the lives of many of the victims. In auto injury cases like this, negligent third parties can be held liable under the law for the damage that they caused.
If you or someone you love have been involved in a bus or truck accident, you don’t need to suffer alone. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you navigate the aftermath of the accident from a legal perspective and help you recover the compensation you deserve so that you can move on with dignity. To speak with an attorney about your legal rights, please call 212-736-5300 for a free, no-obligation consultation.
The attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy offer compassionate and skilled representation to injury victims in the states of New Jersey and New York. Our team is experienced in litigating auto injury cases and have a thorough knowledge of the applicable laws in both jurisdictions. To date, the firm has resolved numerous cases for accident victims, including those involved in large vehicle crashes. Results for clients harmed in truck and bus collisions include:
- $6,000,000 settlement for a bus passenger with spinal and shoulder injuries after the bus crashed with a flatbed truck
- $3,500,000 settlement for a bus driver who was unable to return to work after the bus he was operating was rear-ended by a sanitation truck
- $2,270,000 verdict for a bus passenger who sustained spinal injuries and serious injuries to both knees after the bus collided with a tanker truck
- $1,400,000 settlement after a public bus crashed with a truck at an intersection, requiring a passenger to undergo cervical and lumbar fusion surgeries
Our attorneys offer free case evaluations to injury victims in New Jersey and New York. To learn more about your legal rights after a serious crash, contact an attorney at Block O’Toole & Murphy. Email us or call 212-736-5300.