His ‘beautiful bride’ … her ‘gentle’ twin — Rt. 80 bus crash victims mourned
PARAMUS — The 10-year-old who died in the Route 80 school bus crash was remembered as a "beautiful, gentle soul with a passionate love for her family," including her twin sister.
The husband of the 51-year-old social studies teacher who died alongside her student was mourned by her husband, who called her "My Beautiful Bride" who "I have been in total love every day of our lives since the day our eyes met on 5/5/94."
Relatives identified fifth-grader Miranda Vargas while prosecutors identified 51-year-old social studies teacher Jennifer Williamson as the two victims who died Thursday morning after a school bus that was taking East Brook Middle School students to Waterloo Village in Stanhope was struck by a dump truck.
More than 40 people were injured.
A GoFundMe page was posted to assist Miranda's mother, father and sister.
"We are devastated that our baby's life here with us is over, but we will always carry her legacy with us forever," the family wrote on the page titled "Our Princess' Funeral Fund."
Services for Miranda will be 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Marrocco Memorial Chapel, 470 Colfax Ave., Clifton. The funeral will be 9:30 a.m. Monday
The funeral for Williamson is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at Our Lady of the Visitation Church in Paramus. Services will be Tuesday and Wednesday from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Vander Plaat Memorial Home in Paramus.
Her husband, Kevin, said he was "in shock, devastated and totally crushed by today's tragedy to both sides of the Willamson-Kennedy families, the community she taught and the thousands of students and their families she was very proud to serve."
Former students left condolences and memories on Williamson's RateMyTeachers.com page.
On the day of the crash, one student wrote: "one of the teachers that made my middle school years memorable. an easy, yet tough, yet fair teacher. kind to everyone, sweet to everyone, she truly loved what she did. i miss you so much. rip<3."
Reviews left years earlier were equally effusive, with students calling her "the best teacher in the school," "my favorite teacher," and "she made me feel like home."
A community memorial service will be 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Our Lady of the Visitation Church.
"This is an opportunity for the community to come together as one and pray for victims of yesterday's horrific event," Paramus Mayor Richard LaBarbiera said.
The mayor also said a GoFundMe page was created by the Paramus Children's Health Foundation to help both families.
Gov. Phil Murphy ordered flags to be flown at half staff at all state buildings and facilities on Monday in Vargas' and Williamson's honor.
Department of Transportation officials who saw video of the Thursday morning crash describe it as one of the worst images they have ever seen. The footage, which was recorded by a traffic camera perched on an overpass, shows the bus trying to cross three lanes of traffic to get to a paved median cut-through reserved for emergency vehicles.
The school bus is seen going into the path of the dump truck, which hits the bus with such force that it knocks the section of the bus carrying passengers off its chassis, according to an official who saw the video.
Neither driver has been charged with a crime or traffic violation but the investigation is not over. The Morris County Prosecutor's Office had no comment on the contents of the traffic cam video..
Mendez Trucking owner Juan Munoz said the crash involving his company's dump truck has left him "deeply saddened by this tragedy." He said the company is cooperating with the investigation.
Democratic state Sen. Joseph Lagana, who represents Paramus, asked the Senate Transportation Committee to hold a special hearing on school bus safety in order to review "best practices for preventing accidents and to compare New Jersey with other states.
State Sen. Patrick Diegnan,D-Middlesex, the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and Senate President Steve Sweeney both support the hearing, according to Lagana.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.