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Commuter Bus, Mini School Bus Crash In New Jersey

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By Robin Rieger

OLD BRIDGE, N.J. (CBS) – “It went straight forward into the tree, and that’s all I remember,” said 20-year-old Christine Occhiogrosso.

She left the Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge by wheelchair, her fractured ankle in a cast.

“I got thrown from my seat. I was in the isle and I heard screaming,” she said.

Her father Ben was also released; his fractured eye socket treated and bandaged.

They, and 17 others, suffered non-life threatening injuries when the Academy bus with 32 commuters headed for Manhattan collided with a small yellow school bus Thursday morning on Route 9 in Old Bridge. The commuter bus then hit a telephone pole before crashing into a tree.

“I heard a bang and then I, literally to the right of the bus, saw this yellow van, the school bus, flipping over. It was like an action movie, it was surreal,” said injured Academy bus passenger Ben Occhiogrosso.

A police investigation is underway.

“The two buses collided, it looks like in the bus commuter lane, during a lane change of some sort,” said Old Bridge police captain Robert Weiss.

The district superintendent Tim Brennan says the school bus driver, whose name was not released, was turning right into an apartment complex from the right lane. He says the commuter bus lane would have been to her right along the shoulder. No students were on the bus.

It took rescue crews an hour to free the trapped Academy bus driver, 42-year-old Daniel Jean Pierre of Barnegat. As of Thursday afternoon, he was in surgery at Robert Wood Johnson Trauma Center in New Brunswick.

“[He] had severe injuries to his lower leg including fractures and an open fracture. The bone was exposed,” said Dr. Vicente Gracias.

The school bus landed on a transformer system. Police say the system was live and arching. Police say the bus driver and aide were struggling to get out safely and were helped by police. They suffered minor injuries.

The driver and aide have not been identified. Both were treated and expected to be released.

Police confirm they have video from the commuter bus and that bus’ data box to help determine what happened. There were no cameras on the school bus.

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