Seven Kingsway Regional High School students were rushed by helicopter and ambulance to four hospitals yesterday after their mini-school bus collided with a Nissan Maxima and toppled onto its side in Woolwich Township.
Two students were initially listed in critical condition at Cooper University and Crozer Chester Medical Centers, but they were later upgraded to serious condition, Woolwich Police Chief Russell H. Marino said.
The 63-year-old bus driver, Diane Conard, and the driver of the Nissan, Maria SanClemente, 43, and her 4-year-old daughter were reportedly in stable condition at local hospitals, Marino said.
SanClemente, of Pilesgrove, Salem County, faces charges of running a stop sign at the intersection of Oldmans Creek and Rainey Roads and causing the 2:54 p.m. crash, Marino said. SanClemente was traveling north on Rainey and her car struck the bus as it headed west on Oldmans Creek, he said.
"I don't think she was speeding, but she was out looking at homes and wasn't familiar with the area," Marino said, noting that there had been several accidents at the rural intersection.
"The impact caused the bus to flip," he said. "The students were panic-stricken and some were crying and we tried to calm them down. The medics did a fantastic job calming them down."
The students were forced to exit the bus through the roof.
"They suffered broken bones, cuts, bruises, scrapes and lacerations," Marino said. "They were thrown around quite a bit. We're lucky there were no fatalities."
The Kingsway students, from all four high school grade levels, were returning home from the Salem County Vocational Technical School, where they receive training each afternoon, Kingsway School Superintendent Ave Altersitz said.
"I've been here 18 years and there have been bus crashes in the past, but never this bad," she said after returning from the scene yesterday afternoon. "There was so much commotion . . . helicopters, ambulances, fire trucks and police all over the place."
Altersitz credited a sophomore who was one of the last to be put into an ambulance with giving her the names of all the students on the bus. "If it wasn't for her I wouldn't have gotten the names to inform the parents who were calling," she said.
Six of the students were from Logan and one was from Woolwich, Altersitz said.
The injured were also taken to Christiana Hospital in Delaware and Underwood Memorial Hospital in Woodbury.