“The bus is about to tip over and I thought I was going to die,” said Charter Tech student Infinity Watson.
Nearly three dozen students were hurt when a school bus carrying students from the Atlantic County performing arts high school crashed into the woods along the Garden State Parkway Monday afternoon and police say one of the rear wheels apparently detached from the bus during the crash.
Luckily, by Tuesday, NBC10 had learned that everyone hurt in the crash was evaluated and released from local hospitals -- with the exception of one student who remained in the hospital.
Investigators were on the scene into Monday night as they tried to figure out what caused the "Safety Bus" company bus carrying Charter Tech students to leave the roadway just before 3:30 p.m. near mile-marker 34 northbound in Egg Harbor Township.
Members of the State Police Commercial Vehicle Inspection Team were at the scene investigating the cause of the crash. State Police say that a preliminary investigation revealed that one of the rear wheels detached but no official cause was given.
Parents and student on the bus praised the driver for swerving off the roadway instead of into traffic.
“My daughter did say the bus driver did everything she could not to run into a car or hit the biggest tree possible,” said parent Michelle Griffin.
The bus appeared to skid off the road and crash into some nearby woods -- leaving pronounced skid tracks in the grass shoulder. When the bus was towed away one of the wheels was visibly missing.
Officials say that all 36 students on the bus and the female driver were taken to the hospital -- four students refused medical evaluation and left with their parents.
NBC10 spoke with some of the students who were involved in the crash as well as their parents at the Shore Medical Center. One student told NBC10 he is dealing with some chest pain. Another student was sitting in a wheelchair with her leg propped up but wouldn't go into the extent of her injuries.
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Most of the injuries were described as bumps and bruises -- some students complained of neck and back pain.
Parents received a call earlier in the afternoon alerting them of the accident and telling them if their child(ren) were taken to Atlanticare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City or Galloway Township or Shore Medical Center in Somers Point.
The principal of Charter Tech explained what might have caused the crash.
"I was told by one of the students that he thought the back wheel had come off the bus which caused a loss of control by the driver," said Tubb.
The bus came to a stop leaning to the left in the trees off the northbound side of the Parkway. When it was towed away you could see the detached wheel left behind.
Tom Duggan, the owner of Safety Bus, says it's still unclear what caused the crash. He did however confirm to NBC10 a New Jersey Motor Vehicle report that the bus recently needed re-inspected after an earlier annual inspection showed some problems that needed corrected.