A New Jersey bus driver killed in an accident involving a tractor-trailer is being mourned as a loving father of 11, a devoted husband and a dedicated church deacon.
Darnell Hannah was driving a charter bus to a Vermont ski resort last weekend when a tractor-trailer jackknifed across the icy road. All 30 passengers walked away, and Hannah died at the wheel.
State troopers told his family he was a hero.
"He made a decision at the last minute to maneuver the bus in such a way that it would not harm any of the people, but instead he took the direct hit," said Hannah's wife, Evelyn Hannah.
Evelyn Hannah said her husband was "crazy, he was comical, he was funny, sometimes obnoxious. But he meant well and he loved everybody."
The Hannahs were married 34 years and already had five children of their own when they started helping a fellow church member caring for drug-exposed babies. Soon, they were doing the same.
"I'd call him up at work and say DYFS called me, they have a baby. And he'd say 'no, no more kids,' and he'd get home and the baby would be here because I knew he couldn't resist," said Evelyn Hannah.
They adopted six of those children, including a set of twins. They all have special needs, and two are severely disabled. Evelyn Hannah, a nurse, stayed home with the children when they moved their family from Neptune to Millstone Township six years ago, and Darnell Hannah was working hard to care for them.
"He was a loving father, and accepting," said Evelyn Hannah. "I definitely had the right person to do what we needed to do, which we call a ministry."
She said she wouldn't doubt her husband, a church deacon, would give his life to save others, but her own life is shattered.
"I live because I have hope, because I have God, even though I don't know what's going to happen," she said.
Her most pressing concern is her husband's funeral, which is scheduled for Saturday, the day the twins turn 17. But her friends know that in the long run, she will need to hold onto her specially equipped house, so they've set up a fund to help her.
Daughter Christine Hannah said, "It''s overwhelming. You know people care, but all the cold things that happen in the world, it's refreshing to experience the compassion, and it's appreciated."