The driver of a school bus that apparently lost a tire before crashing into the woods along the Garden State Parkway in Atlantic County got praise for her handling of crash that could have been so much worse.
“The driver did a very, very good job handling that bus,” said Charter Tech school administrator Arthur Tubbs.
New Jersey State Police said that around three dozen students were on board the Safety Bus company bus when the vehicle crashed around 3:30 p.m. Monday near mile-marker 34 in Egg Harbor Township.
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“We’re just thankful that they’re all safe and the outcome was as good as it was,” Tubbs said.
By law, since they were minors, the kids were taken to the hospital – most with minor injuries -- and released by Monday night. But a teenage girl remained in the hospital Tuesday with undisclosed injuries. Seventeen of the kids even went to school Tuesday and there were counselors on had to talk if needed, administrators said.
State Police tell NBC10 that it appears the rear driver’s side tire came loose while the bus was moving.
Christine Williams was behind the wheel of the bus taking kids from the performing arts school to Atlantic City.
A recovering Williams told NBC10's Ted Greenberg that she "did all I could" to prevent the crash from being worse. She was too distraught to talk on camera, but her former husband Paul Williams says he spoke to her about the wreck.
“She said she was driving and the wheel had come off,” said Paul Williams “And, before she knew it, the way she described it, she was laying over there on the side of the road… in the trees.”
“My daughter did say the bus driver did everything she could not to run into a car,” said parent Michelle Griffin.
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission says Williams has a clean driving record. The bus she was driving, however, recently failed an inspection.
Bus No. 20057 failed inspection on Oct. 18 but later passed on re-examination, according to a report on N.J.’s Motor Vehicle Commission’s School Bus Inspection Reporting System. The bus failed requirements for a seat, a dome light, side walls, light clearance and condition of the tires, according to the state.
“The bus was just recently inspected,” Safety Bus owner Tom Duggan said. “The New Jersey inspectors do a very thorough job in their inspections.”
The Garden State actually has some of the most stringent safety standards for student transport including requiring seat belts on larger buses like the one that crashed Monday. The state says the Absecon-based company has a good record. And, Duggan says just to be safe, the company spent extra time inspecting their entire fleet Tuesday morning.
Duggan says they will just need to wait and see as to what officially caused the tire to come loose. He did however praise Williams for her quick thinking.
“I think the driver did a good job from all indications of handling the bus. It could have been worse.”
A representative from Navistar, the manufacturer of the bus, told NBC10 that the company was trying to find out more information on this incident.