By Robin Rieger and Mark Abrams
CHESTERFIELD, N.J. (CBS) – An 11-year-old girl was killed and 17 students were injured, three seriously, in a crash involving a school bus and a dump truck in Burlington County Thursday morning.
The accident happened at about 8 a.m. at a four-way intersection at Bordentown Chesterfield Road (Route 528) and Old York Road in Chesterfield, New Jersey.
According to investigators, the dump truck was driving on Route 528 when it struck the rear of the school bus on the driver side. The impact sent the bus into a nearby utility pole. The dump truck ended up going off the road and onto a grassy patch where it left deep tire marks.
Investigators say an 11-year-old female, identified as Isabelle Tezsla, was killed in the crash. Sources say the victim is the daughter of a New Jersey State Trooper. Sources also say she was a triplet and that her two siblings, Sophie and Natalie Tezsla, were on the bus at the time of the crash.
The bus was carrying approximately 25 students from grades kindergarten to sixth. Seventeen students on the bus were injured – three of the students suffered life-threatening injuries, officials said.
By mid-afternoon, five students remained in the hospital. Three 11-year-old students were at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, including Sophie and Natalie Tezsla, the twin sisters of the deceased, and Jonathan Zdybel, all three in critical condition. One student was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University in New Brunswick, and one was taken to Capital Health Regional Medical Center in unknown condition.
Investigators said John Tieman, 66, and Michael Caporale, 38, both suffered minor injuries and were treated at the hospital. Tieman drove the bus and Caporale is the truck driver, both were questioned by investigators.
Listen to full press conference by Chesterfield, N.J. Police Chief Kyle Wilson …
The bus was equipped with seat belts, but authorities said it was not immediately known how many were wearing them.
Authorities say the school bus was going to the Chesterfield Township Elementary School. The school will be closed on Friday and on Monday for President’s Day Weekend, but grief counselors will be available for students and parents who might need them. School Superintendent Ellen McHenry said after school and evening activities with the exception of their after-care program would be canceled Thursday night.
At Chesterfield Baptist Church, a vigil was held Thursday evening to remember Isabella and the three other seriously injured students.
So far, no charges have been filed. The exact cause of the accident remains under investigation.
Thursday night Governor Christie released the following 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.”