PLAINFIELD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A car collided with a minivan filled with six children being driven to school by their grandmother Monday morning, killing a 10-year-old girl and injuring several others.
As CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported, debris of family life was left scattered next to the overturned minivan late Monday afternoon, as the family mourned and police tried to figure out what happened.
The accident happened around 7:20 a.m. near the intersection of West 9th Street and Arlington Avenue in Plainfield – right next to the local high school.
Police said the minivan was headed south on Arlington Avenue when it collided with a Ford Taurus that was traveling east on West 9th Street.
Witnesses said the male driver of the dark gray Taurus might have run a stop sign, crashing into the minivan with six children inside.
The 10-year-old girl, who was on her way to school, did not survive.
“I heard a lot of collision, a lot of banging,” resident Isaiah Seymore said.
Valerie Knight Hodges ran out to help upon hearing “screaming” and “hollering.”
“We got the back open, I jumped inside and we’re pulling all the kids out,” she told 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern.
Video from the scene showed the vehicle on its side and debris scattered across the roadway.
Hodges helped get five other children out of the minivan, which was left rolled on its side, WCBS 880’s Ginny Kosola reported.
“I was trying to keep them calm and tell them everything was OK,” Hodges said. “They were fine. The littlest one had a scratch on her hand; the one young lady had little a scratch up (on her forehead) — they were all fine, except for the 10-year-old.”
Rescue workers had to cut the roof of the van open to help get the victims out, CBS2’s Sloan reported.
Another woman tried to comfort the other children.
“They had her on a stretcher at that time and I just kind of shielded their faces so they wouldn’t see her,” she said.
The other kids, ranging in ages from 6 to 16, were taken to the hospital along with their grandmother, police said.
“Having three small children of my own, it is sad,” Seymore said.
The male driver of the Taurus was also taken to the hospital. No one else was inside his car, police said.
The condition of the grandmother who was driving the van was reported as stable.
One of her grandsons, who did not want to be identified, said he was “not sure yet” about how his grandmother was doing.
“She always drives the kids to school,” he said. “She’s a good person.”
Police said there have been “rumors circulating that this was a result of a police chase involving a stolen vehicle.”
Authorities said that is “not true and police had no involvement in this crash,” adding that neither vehicle had been reported stolen.
But police were investigating to determine whether the driver of the Taurus blew the stop sign, and whether all the children in the minivan were wearing seat belts.
West 9th Street has stop signs, but Arlington Avenue does not. Residents said the intersection is dangerous, and they want more stop signs.
“One thing this is a school zone,” said resident Kenneth Boykin. “You would think people would slow down 25 miles an hour.”
The sight of a child’s booster seat on the road was chilling for some students at the high school.
“Students walk to school and it’s dangerous,” said student Ana Perez.
“It’s just crazy,” said student Anthony Perez. “You come here and hear that a girl just died — it’s just crazy.”
Hodges said she sees the blood of the little girl who died whenever she closes her eyes.
“I’m still kind of traumatized,” added Hodges, “because when I close my eyes, all I see is the scene. I see the inside of the van — the little girl was trapped. I see the lady at the wheel.”
As she dropped her own grandchild off at school, Hodges said people just need to pay attention so such tragedies do not happen.
The little girl who died attended Emerson School. Her name and the names of the others involved in the accident had not been released late Monday.
Police said there was only one accident at the corner this year, but they are now considering putting additional stop signs up.