Bus driver, passenger critical in NJ highway crash

August 25, 2011 - 3:35 AM
Turnpike Bus Crash

A tour bus on the New Jersey Turnpike collided with a tractor trailer, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011, South New Brunswick, N.J. Turnpike Authority Spokesman Tom Feeney says the crash occurred shortly after noon in the southbound lanes in South Brunswick. Feeney says preliminary reports show about a dozen people were hurt, with most of the injuries believed to be minor. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Two people on a bus that collided with at least two tractor-trailers on the New Jersey Turnpike were in critical condition Thursday, hospital officials said.

A spokeswoman for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick said the bus driver and a passenger both were critical.

More than 50 passengers were on board the bus, which was traveling from New York City to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. About a dozen suffered minor injuries.

State police initially reported the driver had died from his injuries, but Sgt. Brian Polite later said that was a mistaken report.

The crash occurred shortly after noon in the turnpike's southbound lanes in South Brunswick. The cause remained under investigation.

The 52-year-old driver was well rested before his shift and had slept in New York the night before, said Dan Ronan, a spokesman for the American Bus Association. Ronan said the driver had been a professional driver for 11 years.

"His safety record is very good," Ronan said. "He had a current commercial driver's license in Virginia with no violations. His medical certification is current."

The passengers on board had purchased tickets for travel from New York to Washington from curbside coach provider Washington Deluxe, Ronan said, but that company had contracted with Virginia-based DC Trails Inc. to operate the bus.

The bus left Brooklyn at about 11 a.m. Wednesday and made a stop in Manhattan before heading to Washington, Ronan said.

Wednesday's incident was the latest bus accident in the United States, drawing increased scrutiny to bus industry safety and driver fatigue. More than 30 people died in 18 crashes as of late July, according to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.