OLD BRIDGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Several people were injured at the height of the morning rush hour Thursday in an accident involving a New York City-bound commuter bus and a mini school bus in New Jersey.
The school bus was attempting to make a right turn into an apartment complex when it was rear-ended by the Academy bus on Route 9 near Arcade Lane on Thursday morning, 1010 WINS reported.
The impact of the crash flipped the school bus on its side onto an emergency generator for a nearby apartment complex, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported.
“I just heard a loud bang and then I heard a second one, and I just came running over,” said Michael Shance, who was in a nearby apartment complex.
He helped the school bus driver, identified as Daniel Jean-Pierre, and an attendant climb out of the vehicle under their own power.
“We went around to the side trying to open the back emergency door. That was jammed shut. So we went over to the other side told them to open the emergency hatch,” he told WCBS 880 reporter Jim Smith.
Luckily, no students were on board at the time of the crash.
First responders arrived on the scene fearing mass casualties after the Academy bus continued up the road, taking down power lines, causing the emergency generator to suddenly power up, Aiello reported.
There were smoke and flames, but workers were able to shut the generator down quickly.
“The first thing you hear is ‘school bus’ and you think the worst,” Academy Bus Spokesman Joe Orlando said. “This looks worse than it is, but there are people injured and we are cognizant of that.”
Thirty-three passengers were on the Academy bus which was headed to Wall Street from Toms River, 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reported.
Several people were injured and transported to area hospitals.
“It was kind of all a blur, then adrenaline took over, then I realized what happened to me. I was in the aisle, I heard screaming,” passenger Jennifer Occhiogrosso told Aiello.
“We’ve gotten a lot of calls from family members, worried, was my relative on there,” Orlando said. “It’s tough because we don’t have manifests, we don’t know who is on the bus at any given time, the best info would come from the driver.”
Jean-Pierre became trapped in the wreckage and had to be extricated from the vehicle after the bus crashed into a tree, 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reported. The tree tore through the roof of the bus.
He was the most seriously hurt and was taken by medivac chopper to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital for treatment, Aiello reported.
A 31-year-old female passenger was also badly injured. She is hospitalized in fair condition, Aiello reported.
Orlando said Jean-Pierre has driven for Academy since last May and has a clean driving record.
The accident closed Route 9 in both directions for hours after the crash.
As police work to reconstruct the accident, they have a very helpful piece of evidence from inside the school bus — dash-cam video, which could help determine who is at fault for the accident.