NJ School Bus Crash Turns Deadly; Chesterfield Mourns [VIDEO/AUDIO]
Burlington County authorities are working to piece together what led to a fatal collision between a school bus and dump truck in Chesterfield Township that killed an 11-year-old girl and critically injured three others.
The accident occurred just after 8 a.m. at a four-way intersection on Route 528 and Old York Road in the rural community. It sent the bus, carrying 25 students, crashing sideways into a traffic pole. Police said 17 students received minor injuries, some were taken to a nearby home for treatment, which was used by authorities as a triage center.
The girl who died has been identified as 11-year-old Isabelle Tezsla. Her sisters, 11-year-olds Sophie and Natalie Tezsla, were injured and last reported to be in critical condition.
The three girls are triplets and the daughters of New Jersey State Police Trooper Anthony Tezsla. Another child on the bus, 11-year-old Jonathan Zdybel, was also critically injured.
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.
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.
Wilson said a crash of this magnitude could take several weeks to reconstruct.
"We have to examine the speed of the vehicles, the road conditions at the time of crash, if the lights were working properly and we will also be conducting interviews with witnesses, the drivers and doing a full forensic investigation."
News of the tragedy spread quickly across the rural community of about 7,600.
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..its a tight-knit community," said Kelly, who was picking up his daughter, who walks to school, Thursday afternoon.
"So sad" said another woman walking toward the elementary school to pick up her son. "I don't know how I will explain this to him."
Students were given a letter at the end of the school day and parents were told to talk to their children about the seriousness of what happened.
A Community Mourns
Hundreds gathered at the Chesterfield Baptist Church Thursday night, where a prayer service was held.
"He's hanging in there...but my parents hugged him when he got home" said Thomas Meyers, who's brother John witnessed the accident.
"It's just an opportunity to hug and kiss your children every chance you get" said his mother, Terrie.
A mother and daughter who left the service were seen weeping and hugging in the rain.
"I didn't even know her...but it still hurts because we're like a big family" said 16 year-old Laura.
Her mother Rebecca knew the Tezslas and many of the children on board the school bus.
"I know the family and I know their neighbors...we just pray they have the strength to get through this and that their other daughters are going to be okay. As a mother, when a child dies, it's like a part of you dies too."
The school is closed until Tuesday in observance of President's day but school officials said it will be open to families today for counseling. Members of the Burlington County School Response Team and the Burlington County Traumatic Loss Coalition will be on hand to offer assistance to those in need.
Governor Christie Issues A Statement
"This is a terrible tragedy. Mary Pat and I, and everyone from the Governor's Office, send our thoughts and prayers to Sergeant Tezsla, his wife and family for the grievous loss of their child, Isabelle, and with hopes for a speedy recovery of the injuries suffered by Sophie and Natalie. The family's grief must be enormous. 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."
A Call For Blood Donations
Due to the tragic school bus accident in Chesterfield, our local trauma centers have an urgent need for blood. Particularly O-negative. THIS IS AN URGENT REQUEST! To schedule your appointment call Beverly Silver at the Community Blood Council of New Jersey at (609) 883-9750 Ext. 118 or log on to schedule an appointment at www.GiveBloodNJ.org
Courtesy Associated Press