CHESTERFIELD, N.J. (AP) – A dump truck collided with a bus carrying elementary schoolchildren on Thursday, killing an 11-year-old daughter of a state trooper and critically injuring three other students _ two of them the triplet sisters of the dead girl, authorities said.
The accident occurred just after 8 a.m. at a four-way intersection in Chesterfield, a town south of Trenton. It sent the bus, which was carrying 25 students, crashing sideways into a traffic signal pole, crumpling the side. Police said 17 students received injuries, most of them minor.
State police identified the father of the triplets as Sgt. Anthony Tezsla.
His daughter Isabelle was killed. Her sisters, Sophie and Natalie, were listed in critical condition at Camden’s Cooper University Hospital, along with Jonathan Zdybel, also 11.
Students with less serious injuries were taken to three other hospitals.
Chesterfield police Chief Kyle Wilson said the bus had a stop sign while the dump truck had a flashing yellow light. He said it was unclear whether the bus was attempting to cross the intersection or turn when the collision happened. The dump truck ran off the road into a grassy area.
No charges were filed. Police said the investigation was incomplete.
A boy being taken from the scene by his mother told The Associated Press “this big truck just came and slammed right into us.” The mother did not want the boy’s name used.
The boy said the crash left some of his fellow students with bloody faces.
Students on the bus said they were wearing their seatbelts. But a mother of one of the children told television station NBC10 in Philadelphia that some children were still tossed into the aisle.
John Kelly, whose 11-year-old daughter attends Chesterfield Elementary School, said the triplets were in his house just a short while ago and played sports with his daughter.
“It’s devastating. My wife can’t come out or anything,” said Kelly, who was picking up his daughter, who walks to school, Thursday afternoon.
Neighbors openly wept near the accident scene.
The town of about 8,000 residents has thousands of acres of preserved farmland, but there is also a lot of new home construction near the school, which serves nearly 600 students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Gov. Chris Christie called the crash “a terrible tragedy.”
“The family’s grief must be enormous,” Christie said in a statement. “We can only imagine their pain and lend our support and prayers in this most difficult of times. We are sure that all of Chesterfield Township, the family of State Police men and women, and indeed residents all across New Jersey, have the Tezslas in their thoughts and prayers. Our same concerns and prayers extend to the other children aboard the bus, particularly Jonathan Zdybel, the young boy who also remains hospitalized and in critical condition.”
The driver of the school bus was identified as John Tieman, 66, of Beverly, and the driver of the dump truck as Michael Caporale, 38, of New Egypt.
A community vigil was being held Thursday at the Chesterfield Baptist Church. Officials said counselors would be sent to Chesterfield Elementary.
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