ELMER, N.J. (CBS) — A school community is remembering a beloved bus driver who lost her life on the job Friday. Bus driver Denise Powell worked in the district for more than 20 years, her passing and the accident have left this small community heartbroken.
The color purple is often associated with royalty and bravery. On Monday, students and staff in the Pittsgrove School District wore it in various hues in honor of Powell.READ MORE: Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro Tests Positive For COVID-19
“It’s wonderful that they’re actually taking the time out to honor her,” said parent Tanisha Height.
A sign outside Olivet Elementary School reads, “Always in our hearts Mrs. Powell.”
Powell died Friday when her school bus, bus 33, was struck by an SUV. Nineteen students were on board and two were injured.
“It’s really sad, but my prayers go out to that family and all the kids’ family because that’s traumatizing, it really is,” parent Taneira Ames said.
New Jersey State Police said it happened on County Road 540 around 4 p.m.READ MORE: Pennsylvanians To Cast First Ballots Under Redistricted Maps
Powell was leaving Olivet Elementary when a Nissan crossed the center lines causing the two to hit another car. The driver of the Nissan, 70-year-old Pearl Caudill, died at the scene.
Powell was pronounced at the hospital.
Taneisha Height says Powell was her daughter’s bus driver for two years. She says she went above the listed duties, helping her daughter through bullying incidents with students.
“Never once again did we have a problem with my daughter coming home crying because her skin is too dark and I thank the bus driver because I appreciate you helping her while I’m not there,” Height said.
In a statement, the district superintendent said, “She served as a bus driver and cafeteria worker. The children loved her and her colleagues did as well. She passed serving the school community, Denise Powell is a hero.”MORE NEWS: VOTER GUIDE: Pennsylvania Primary Election 2022
The school says they have grief counselors on hand for students and staff.