The two men killed Tuesday evening when their vehicle collided with a school bus in Southampton Township did landscaping work together, and one was a longtime employee of his family's Cherry Hill business, McNaughton's Gardens.
Sean McNaughton, 41, of Medford, was a passenger in the Volkswagen Passat driven by Michael Razzano, 49, of Browns Mills. State police said Razzano possibly was trying to pass other vehicles at high speed when the crash occurred.
The bus was carrying the Lenape High School girls' varsity swim team to a meet. Eight of the 20 students on it were taken to Virtua Memorial Hospital in Mount Holly and treated for minor injuries, police said.
Razzano's sister, Susan Zammit, called the crash a "freak accident." She said in an interview Wednesday her brother would have been the first to help had he witnessed it.
"Everybody's in our prayers," Zammit, 52, of Browns Mills, said. "And we thank God that nobody [else] was hurt" or more seriously injured, "and if we can do anything for anybody, we will."
Zammit said she believed her brother and McNaughton were heading toward a landscaping job they had planned to do together.
McNaughton, whose family said he loved playing cards and making home repairs, had worked for more than two decades at McNaughton's Gardens, where Razzano also had worked in the past.
Christine Miller, McNaughton's sister, said he had spent Tuesday doing irrigation work in Bordentown.
McNaughton was divorced. He and his 13-year-old daughter, Ivy, spent Thanksgiving at Miller's home in Egg Harbor Township, where the family shared turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. He also frequented Ocean City, where his aunt has a home.
"He loved going to the Shore," said McNaughton's father, Bill.
State police said the car with McNaughton and Razzano was coming off a curve on Pemberton Road near Ridge Road when it crossed into the oncoming lane and struck the bus around 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The posted speed limit on the curve is 35 m.p.h., while the rest of Pemberton Road in that area is 45 m.p.h., state police said. The speed of the car is under investigation. The two-lane road - which, like many in the Burlington County township, does not have streetlights - was dark and wet at the time of the crash.
State police said Wednesday they were still investigating if those involved in the crash were wearing seat belts.
Carol L. Birnbohm, superintendent of the Lenape Regional High School District, on Wednesday expressed condolences to Razzano and McNaughton's families, and said the district was cooperating with investigators. She said the injuries of the students were not believed to be serious.
"I would like to acknowledge and thank the many students, staff, and administrators throughout South Jersey and beyond who have reached out to offer support to our girls' swim team, coaches, and bus driver," Birnbohm said in a statement.
The Lenape Athletics Twitter account said that Tuesday was opening day for the swim team and that the squad was scheduled to compete against Seneca High School that evening. The Olympic Conference, of which Lenape and Seneca are part, said the meet had been slated for 5:15 p.m. at Rowan College at Burlington County in Pemberton Township.
At Virtua Memorial, about a dozen parents, school officials, and students who were on the bus gathered in the emergency room Tuesday night. Some were wearing the team's red sports jackets.
Lenape's girls swim team's Twitter account, @lgswimming, posted Tuesday night: "Girls, words do not express how grateful I am that we are all ok. I love you all so so so much."
Athletes at Seneca, including swimmers and football players, encouraged students via social media to wear red Wednesday in support of Lenape's swim team.
The accident was the third fatal crash in Southampton this year. In August, Jairisa Galindo, 18, was pulling her brother, Jyonshiel Martinez, 2, in a red wagon along Buddtown Road when a BMW sedan struck them in the evening. Police said the area had poor lighting and did not charge the driver, who was not speeding or intoxicated.
A week later, on Route 206, a pickup truck crossed the dividing line and struck middle school English teacher Allison McGinnis, 29, who was jogging on the side of the road that afternoon. No charges were filed, but state police said the investigation is continuing.