The bang outside her home sounded like thunder. When Janet Hickman looked out, she saw a school bus tipped over on its side, with children sliding out its back door, and one girl limping and crying.
The vehicle that struck the bus had smoke coming out of it, she said.
"It was scary," said Hickman, 68, who lives in a trailer park near the accident site.
Calling their findings preliminary, New Jersey State Police said the small bus - eastbound in Fairfield Township, just outside Bridgeton - was hit by a westbound black Toyota Rav4 SUV that veered into its path.
The school bus overturned in the collision, which occurred at 7:42 a.m. on the 800 block of Commerce Street (Route 49), state police said.
The Toyota's driver died at the scene, police said, identifying him as Larry Waller Jr., 43, of Bridgeton.
Thursday evening, Larry Waller Sr., also of Bridgeton, choked back tears as he spoke of his son.
He said in an interview that his son probably fell asleep while driving home from an overnight shift at Durand Glass Manufacturing Co. in Millville, N.J.
His son, a mechanic, normally worked the day shift but was called in to work around 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, he said.
"He was dead tired," Waller said. "He must have really dozed out and lost control."
Waller said his son began working at Durand in September after losing his job at Gerresheimer Glass Inc., also in Millville, which shut down its plant last year, affecting more than 100 employees.
A middle child, Larry Jr. was an avid fisherman and hunter, and leaves a 9-year-old daughter, his father said.
"He was just a great son. You couldn't ask for a better one," his father said.
Durand officials could not be reached Thursday evening.
Bridgeton School Superintendent Thomasina Jones said there were four district students on the bus, which was heading to the Pinelands Learning Center. The students, ages 11, 15, 16, and 17, were "devastated," she said.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim," Jones said. "That's really tragic."
After the students were treated at Inspira Medical Center in Vineland, they were picked up by their parents, Jones said.
In a statement, state police said the bus was being driven by Osheia Wallace, 48, of Bridgeton. The other adult on the bus, Vera Cole, 82, of Fairfield, was in critical but stable condition at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, police said.
The driver and bus aide are both employees of Kerry Bus Co., Jones said.
An aerial shot, before the accident scene was cleared, showed the bus on its side in a field and the Toyota in the middle of the road, a white sheet covering its front.
A Pinelands Learning Center official declined comment.
The accident put a scare into Tracy Harris, director of the Glory Tabernacle Childcare and Learning Center down the road. She worried that one of the center's buses was involved. Then Harris noticed that the bus that crashed was smaller than the ones used by the center, which has about 80 students.
"I just panicked to make sure it wasn't one of ours," she said.
She then began calling staff, who travel down Route 49, to make sure they were not harmed.