Montclair school bus crash happened when SUV driver went through stop sign, cops say
Friday morning’s school bus crash happened after an 85-year-old driver from Belleville drove into an intersection, striking the bus with 15 students and an aide on board, police said.
No students were hurt, though four adults were taken to area hospitals.
The school bus had been en route to Hillside Elementary School, traveling on Park Street, when a 2008 Toyota Rav 4 on Wildwood Avenue drove into the intersection with Park Street, Police Sgt. Terence Turner said Friday afternoon. There are stop signs on Wildwood Avenue at the intersection, and none on Park Street. Police received a report of the crash at 9:06 a.m., he said.
The bus, operated by a 54-year-old driver from Haledon, mounted the western curb and struck a utility pole and a fire hydrant before coming to rest, Turner said.
All of the students were assisted off the bus safely, and each was evaluated by EMS, Turner said. Neighbors described residents helping students off the bus and taking care of them as they awaited help from first-responders.
No children were injured or transported to the hospital from the scene, though schools Superintendent Jonathan Ponds said the district had been informed some parents would take their children to doctors for follow-up.
The aide, a 60-year-old woman, suffered a swollen knee and was transported by ambulance to Clara Mass Medical Center in Belleville, Turner said. The driver had head, neck, and back pain and was transported by ambulance to St Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson.
The driver of the Rav 4 had pain to his head, neck and back and was transported to Mountainside Hospital, Turner said. His passenger, 24-year-old man, also complained of shoulder and head pain and was transported to Mountainside hospital by ambulance.
Both vehicles were towed from the scene, Turner said. The driver of the Rav 4 was given two summonses for failure to stop and careless driving.
PSE&G responded to the scene to replace the damaged utility pole. The Montclair Fire Department, Montclair Ambulance Unit and EMS units from Glen Ridge, Bloomfield and Cedar Grove also responded to the scene, as did representatives from Hillside School, including the school nurse, Turner said.
“We are appreciative of the quick response of the Montclair Police and Fire Departments, emergency responders, [district] transportation department, Hillside nurse and administrators, district administration, and especially the safety measures taken by the bus driver,” Ponds said. “We will be following up with our families throughout the day.”
His message didn’t clarify what those safety measures entailed.
‘Let us help out’
Neighbor Joseph Zolnowski, who helped out at the scene, said the kids were “anywhere from fairly calm to pretty panicked.
“When I got to the end of the driveway I could hear them [the passengers] saying, ‘Let us out. Help us out. There’s glass,’” he said.
Zolnowski and another neighbor helped the children get out of the bus through two broken doors.
Another neighbor gathered the children in her driveway as parents began showing up to the scene, he said.
“Parents were coming down. And you could tell they are parents because of the looks on their faces. They were just so upset and hugging their children,” neighbor Tammy Zolnowski said.
Lyle Landon, who lives down the street, said drivers often speed through the neighborhood.
“Thank goodness the children didn’t get hurt,” Karen Caso, who lives on Valley Avenue, said.
— Reporting by Diego Jesus Bartesaghi Mena, Kate Albright, Jaimie Julia Winters and Louis C. Hochman