A school bus and a commuter bus headed to Wall Street in Manhattan crashed on a New Jersey highway Thursday morning, critically injuring two people and hurting dozens of others, authorities said.
No children were on the school bus, which landed on its side.
About 30 people were injured when the commuter bus crashed on Route 9 shortly before 8:30 a.m., a spokesman for Academy Express told NBC 4 New York. The 42-year-old bus driver was in critical condition, hospital officials said. An aide on the school bus had a cut lip, according to Old Bridge School Superintendent Timothy Brennan.
The commuter bus hit the school bus from behind as it slowed down to make a right turn off Route 9 to pick up students at an apartment complex, police Capt. Arthur Carullo said. The collision caused the school bus to flip onto its left side, atop a fenced-off backup power supply station.
The commuter bus left the roadway and hit a telephone pole and a tree, which appeared to impale the front of the bus.
Passenger Bill Barth told NBC 4 New York the two buses made contact and "moments later, we're jumping the curb, still going at a rate of speed and I don't know where we're headed until we find a tree."
"People were thrown all over the place inside the bus. A lot of them were screaming and saying they needed help," said the 66-year-old Freehold man, who suffered abrasions on his shin and knee.
Barth said the driver was trapped in his seat and the windshield shattered by the tree had collapsed around him. Passengers had to walk by him to get out. The driver has been identified as Daniel Jean-Pierre, of Barnegat. He has a clean driving record and has been with Academy since last May.
Barth was one of about 15 passengers with minor bumps and bruises who refused medical treatment and was taken to the Old Bridge Municipal Complex to wait for rides, according to Erin Kassay, an EMT.
Michael Schantz, who lives nearby, told NBC 4 New York he heard a bang and ran outside to see what had happened. He saw the school bus on its side and he and several neighbors rushed to help. They pulled open the emergency hatch and found two women inside. Both women were conscious but said they were in pain, Schantz said. He and another neighbor helped them climb out the emergency hatch.
A woman whose son would have been on the school bus told NBC 4 New York she was "terrified" by the accident. The school bus crashed 15 minutes before his scheduled pickup, she said.
Route 9 northbound lanes remained closed mid-morning Thursday. NJ Transit was also reporting delays in bus service to Newark and New York City because of road closures related to the crash.
A spokesman for Academy said the commuter bus had departed from a garage in Toms River and was picking up passengers along Route 9 on its way to Lower Manhattan.
Academy Express has reported seven crashes, four of which involved injuries, since January 2011, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The company has 52 hours-of-service violations, which deal with drivers who are ill, fatigued, or work too many consecutive hours without rest.
Academy Express has 422 vehicles and 454 drivers.