A bus involved in a deadly accident on Route 80 in Mount Olive.

Al Jones/1010 WINS

Wake Held For Student Killed In Route 80 School Bus Crash

May 20, 2018 - 1:36 pm
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PARAMUS, N.J. (1010 WINS/AP) -- A communitywide service was set to be held in Paramus, New Jersey Sunday evening for the East Brook Middle School student and teacher killed in a school bus crash on Route 80 in Mount Olive.

The memorial is being held at Our Lady of the Visitation Church, and came after the wake for Miranda Vargas, 10, at the Marrocco Memorial Chapel in Clifton. That is also the site for the fifth grader’s funeral on Monday at 9:30 a.m.

The pain was visible on everyone’s faces as they walked to the chapel to pay their respects to Miranda at the wake Sunday, 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern reported.

“My God – that’s a shock, you know, because nobody is expecting to bury your own kid, you know? And especially in an accident like that,” said one longtime family friend.

The bus was ripped off its undercarriage and knocked on its side.

“Terrible, you know, especially for the little girl who, you know, happens to be her twin sister,” said family friend Ezekiel.

Ezekiel said he was trying to help Miranda’s family in any way possible.

Meanwhile, the wake for teacher Jennifer Williamson is set for Tuesday and Wednesday at the Vander Platt Memorial Home in Paramus. Her funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at Our Lady of the Visitation.

On Thursday morning, the school bus was carrying 45 fifth-graders and teachers on a field trip when it collided with a dump truck. Dozens of others were also injured.

Police declined to release details about how the crash happened, but it occurred on a stretch of highway just past the exit for Waterloo Village, where the group from East Brook Middle School in Paramus was headed. The bus wound up on a guardrail close to a spot for emergency vehicles to make a U-Turn on the highway. A sign there reads "No Turns."

Officials said Friday that most of the 43 injured people from the bus were discharged from hospitals, but they declined to provide details about the types and severity of the injuries they suffered. Officials also didn't detail what injuries the truck driver suffered.

The bus was one of three taking students from the school, about 15 miles west of New York City, to Waterloo Village, a historic site depicting a Lenape Indian community and once-thriving port about 5 miles from the crash scene. The other buses made it to the site but returned to the school about 50 miles away.

The crash left the bus lying on its side on the guardrail of Interstate 80 in Mount Olive, its undercarriage and front end sheared off and its steering wheel exposed. Some of the victims crawled out of the emergency exit in the back and an escape hatch on the roof.

New Jersey Democratic state Sen. Joseph Lagana, who represents Paramus, on Friday called for a legislative hearing on school bus safety to review best practices and compare New Jersey to other states. Legislative leaders agreed to the idea but haven't set a date yet.

The trucking company that operated the dump truck also had a string of crashes in recent years and a higher than average rate of violations that sidelined its vehicles, according to federal safety data.

Mendez Trucking has about 40 drivers and trucks, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Its trucks had been in seven crashes, none fatal, during the last two years before Thursday's crash, the FMCSA says. Messages left with the company weren't returned.

A Mendez-owned dump truck driven by a driver police say had a suspended license struck and killed a French fashion stylist in New York in January 2011, according to court records.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 118 people on school buses were killed in crashes from 2007 to 2016, the last year for which data is available. Of those killed, 68 were passengers, including 58 school-age children, and 50 were drivers. School bus crashes killed 902 people in other vehicles over that span.

(© 2018 1010 WINS. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)