Two New Jersey Transit buses collided Friday in a horrific t-bone crash in downtown Newark, killing two people and injuring 17 others, some of them critically, officials said.
The driver of the No. 59 bus from Dunellen to Newark broadsided the No. 13 bus from Irvington to Clifton while heading west on Raymond Boulevard near Broad Street shortly after 6 a.m. The driver of the No. 59 bus, James Barthelus, was the only person on board the vehicle and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Seventeen passengers were on the other bus. All of them and the driver were taken to hospitals in varying conditions.
Mayor Ras Baraka said that a woman passenger aboard the No. 13 bus was pronounced dead sometime after the crash. One passenger was in critical condition and five in serious condition, he said. Eight others were in fair or good condition, he added.
The surviving bus driver, James Roberts, who had been on the job for 35 years, has since been released from the hospital, authorities said.
Yacouba Savadogo was one of the passengers aboard the No. 13 bus involved in the crash. He said the impact zone was only a few rows in front of him and he threw himself as far back as he could as the other bus crushed into his. Afterward, he was the only person aboard the bus able to walk, so he helped as best he could until first responders got to the scene.
He suffered minor injuries to his arm and leg.
Chopper 4 footage showed one bus smashed into the other. One of the vehicles appeared crumpled like an accordion, and glass and mangled chunks of metal had spewed onto the ground below.
Baraka said authorities were working to confirm reports that one of the drivers may have run a red light.
"This is not a regular event for NJ transit," Baraka said. "We are working to make sure these things don’t happen."
Footage from the scene showed some victims lying on a sidewalk and others taken away in stretchers. They were surrounded by dozens of firefighters and police.
One bystander who scrambled to try to help passengers described the scene as a "nightmare."
NJ Transit police Chief Christopher Trucillo said in a statement that the bus agency was cooperating with prosecutors and others investigating the crash.
"We at NJ Transit would like to give our condolences to the family of our driver who is a long time NJ Transit employee and our hearts and sympathies go out not only to his family but also to all our bus employees because NJ Transit is a family and when an incident like this happens it impacts everyone in a meaningful way," said Trucillo.
Starbucks employee Jennifer Peltrain was opening up her store near the crash site and ran outside to help after hearing what she said sounded like an explosion.
Peltrain and her fellow baristas were among the first people on hand and aided people with ice water, rags and a first aid kit.
The Essex County Prosecutor's Office is investigating the collision.