PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – East Brook Middle School has identified the student killed along with a teacher Thursday when their school bus crashed after missing an exit on Interstate 80 near Mount Olive.
Miranda Faith Vargas, 10, of Paramus, along with well-loved teacher Jennifer Williamson, 51, died following a collision between their school bus and a dump truck that ripped their vehicle apart.
“She was nice and caring,” fifth grader Shubham Kothali told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner on Saturday, adding Vargas had a twin sister.
“It was one of the most terrible and horrible and the most stressful day of my life as being a parent,” his father, Sagaurab, added.
More than 40 students and chaperones were on the way to Waterloo Village in Stanhope Thursday when sources say the bus driver missed an exit on I-80 and tried to correct the mistake with an illegal U-turn across the center median, an area meant for authorized vehicles only.
The dump truck, belonging to Mendez Trucking out of Belleville, also had extensive damage. A total of 43 other people on the bus were hospitalized. The dump truck driver was also hurt, for a total of 44 injured. One child was in a medically induced coma late Friday night.
In a statement release Saturday, the school thanked those who have offered support.
“As we mourn the tragic loss of these beautiful angels, we continuously pray for the students and teachers who remain in the hospital and those who are dealing with their injuries and scars both physically and emotionally,” said PTA President Ann Marie Franson
As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, the hashtag #ParamusStrong was trending on social media Friday.
“As a parent, we give them a big hug, tight hug,” said Kothali. “Every morning when they leave for school, unfortunately, there’s no guarantee they might come back home safe.”
A funeral service for Vargas will be held Monday at a chapel in Clifton.
Williamson’s husband sent CBS2 a statement saying he fell in love with his beautiful bride the day they met and now today they must begin funeral arrangements, saying their family and thousands of students are crushed by her death.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up by the Paramus Children’s Health Foundation with the support of Mayor Rich LaBarbiera. Sunday morning starting at 8:30 a.m. there will be a breakfast fundraiser at the Paramus Elks Club on Route 17, with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward victims and their families.
Gov. Phil Murphy ordered flags to be flown at half staff in honor of the victims Monday.