Mayor Says Probe Centering On Red Light In Fatal Crash

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A driver and a passenger were killed, and 17 others were injured, when two NJ TRANSIT buses slammed into one another in Newark Friday morning.

Investigators late Friday were trying to determine what caused one of the buses to broadside the other.

As CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported, the collision happened around 6 a.m. at Raymond Boulevard and Broad Street in Newark. An NJ TRANSIT 59 Line bus slammed into a 13 Line bus, leaving a heap of twisted metal and a crowd of terrified, trapped passengers.

“The light changed, and the other bus T-boned the 13, knocking it into the air,” said witness Kahlil Smith.

The driver of the otherwise empty 59 Line was killed. He was identified as Joseph Barthelus, 1010 WINS’ Samantha Liebman reported.

Also killed was a female passenger, but no other information was immediately available, according to the Essex County prosecutor’s office.

The other bus driver, James Roberts, was treated and released from an area hospital.

As CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, one passenger remained in critical condition late Friday, and five more were reported in serious condition at University Hospital in Newark.

Video from the scene showed one bus lodged in the undercarriage of the other with debris and tangled metal scattered across the roadway.

The people at the bus stop took matters into their own hands before paramedics arrived.

“Me and a couple of other guys start trying to pull people out of the bus, break the windows and pull like pieces of the chairs and stuff out of the bus to get to the people,” Smith said. “Not much we could do ’cause the people were smushed in between the seats, and the windows and the poles and stuff of the bus.”

Inside the 13 Line bus, there were more than 200 passengers who were injured and trying to get out.

“I was in the back of, so I saw the bus; saw the bus come to the middle,” said crash victim Yacouea Savadogo.

Savadogo could be seen on the bus rolling cellphone video seconds after the accident. He said he saw the other bus speeding toward the one he was on.

“Very fast,” Savadogo said. “Everything go very fast.”

He said passengers sitting next to him were pinned to their seats, unable to move.

“I just heard the people ask for help,” Savadogo said. “The emergency come, but they can’t get on the bus, so the guy wanted help. It was scary. I thought the guy was going die.”

Another passenger told CBS2’s Sloan he was taking a nap when the driver of NJ TRANSIT bus 59 careened into them.

Jennifer Petrain was opening up a Starbucks about 100 yards from where the accident occurred. She said she heard a crash “like an explosion” and ran outside. She said she and a co-worker brought ice water, rags and a first aid kit.

“We were there before anybody was on the scene,” Petrain said. “It was terrible. We saw people with head injuries, leg injuries.”

Marquell Williamson told CBS2’s Sloan from his hospital bed that it was sheer chaos as he tried to help one woman who was trapped.

“I tried to help the lady out, but she said she was stuck, so like, you know, the people helped me out,” he said. “Everything was blurry at moment. I hit my head on the bus.”

NJ TRANSIT Police Chief Chris Trucillo said driver Barthelus who was killed was a 27-year veteran of the agency, WCBS 880’s Kelly Waldron reported. He was operating the bus from Ironbound garage, Trucillo said.

“Our hearts and sympathies go out not only to his family, but also to all our bus employees,” Trucillo said.

All 18 people on the other bus were taken to the hospital, 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern reported.

“We’re praying for all of the folks in the hospital,” Mayor Ras Baraka said.

Investigators late Friday were examining surveillance video to determine the exact cause of the accident.

NJ TRANSIT said officials are still gathering information about what happened. The mayor said investigators are checking multiple city surveillance cameras to determine the exact cause.

“We suspect that one of the bus drivers may have run through a red light,” Baraka said.

The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office is also investigating.

The intersection of Broad Street and Raymond Boulevard was the first in the state, in 2009, to feature a surveillance camera designed to catch people running red lights. Then-Mayor Cory Booker conducted a demonstration in which he purposely rode through a red light.

The red light camera program ultimately expanded to about two dozen towns and cities in New Jersey before it was discontinued in 2014 amid controversy and lawsuits.

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