Names released in school bus/dump truck crash

February 16, 2012 7:40:10 PM PST
One girl is dead and her two sisters - along with another boy - are in critical condition after their school bus was hit by a dump truck on Thursday morning in Burlington County, New Jersey.

The girl who died has been identified as 11-year-old Isabelle Tezsla. Her sisters, 11-year-old Sophie Tezsla and 11-year-old Natalie Tezsla, were injured and last reported to be in critical condition.

The three girls are triplets and the daughters of New Jersey State Police Trooper Anthony Tezsla.

Another child on the bus, 11-year-old Jonathan Zdybel, was also critically injured.

The dump truck driver has been identified as Michael Caporale, 38, from New Egypt, New Jersey. The school bus driver is identified as John Tieman, 66, from Beverly, New Jersey.

The crash happened around 8:05 a.m. at the intersection of Bordentown Chesterfield Road (Route 528) and Old York Road in Chesterfield Township.

A bus carrying Chesterfield Elementary School students was travelling along Old York Road when a dump truck coming down Route 528 collided with the driver side rear of the bus. The collision spun the bus around, slamming the passenger side rear of the vehicle into a traffic light pole.

Chesterfield police Chief Kyle Wilson said the details are still being sorted out, but that the bus had a stop sign while the dump truck had a flashing yellow light. He said it was not clear whether the bus was attempting to cross the intersection or turn when the collision happened.

There have been no charges filed at this time as the investigation continues.

25 children were on the bus at the time of the crash, and 17 of them were injured.

A house near the corner of the accident scene was set up as a triage center. The less seriously injured children, and the children who were not injured at all, were taken inside of the house. Some of those children were hospitalized as a precaution.

Both drivers were also hospitalized. Their injuries do not appear to be serious.

"The bus was going a little slow and I didn't know what was going on. But then I felt the bus moving and then it slipped," said Laim Scheehan, a student who was aboard the bus.

A prayer service is scheduled at the Chesterfield Baptist Church from 6:00 to 8:00 Thursday night.

A community in mourning

The heart-wrenching news traveled quickly across the community of about 7,600 people. At Chesterfield Elementary, which runs from Pre-K to 6th grade, parents arrived to pick up their children, even though they were not involved in the crash.

"I'm still shocked. I feel so sorry for the families and the community and the children and how they're feeling," said parent Sally Canaday.

Kate Dimemmo explained she had gotten the news while at work and her first impulse was to be as close to her young son as possible.

"I just want to pick up my son and hug him and be with him," Dimemmo said.

A sad, somber day for this school of about 480 students and 38 teachers. Parents say it is a tight knit community of young families bound together in part by school programs and athletics.

John Kelly says he knew some of the victim's including the little 11-year-old who died in the accident.

"They were in our house a while ago. It's a very close-knight community, everyone knows each other around here," Kelly said.

Superintendent issues statement:

At a police news conference Thursday afternoon, Chesterfield Township School Superintendent Ellen McHenry delivered a statement to the press, saying:

"On behalf of Chesterfield Elementary School, I can tell you that we are operating on a normal day schedule for our students and staff. We've been recipient of support from across Burlington County, for which we're very grateful.

Administrators from our school and our school doctor have been on site at area hospitals with our families throughout the day. We will be sending information home with students at the end of the school day for parents and we'll meet with our faculty at day's end.

Although school is not open tomorrow - it was closed for President's Day Weekend holiday - we will open school from 9:00 a.m. to noon to our families for counseling. Members of the Burlington County School Response Team and the Burlington County Traumatic Loss Coalition will be on hand to offer assistance to those in need.

"Please understand that we are an elementary school, serving students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Today's events are obviously traumatic for young children and we would like our families to be able to process the facts as they are known privately.

We ask your cooperation in minimizing distraction at our school as we dismiss students today. My thoughts and prayers, as well as all of our faculty, are with the families of the students involved in today's tragic accident."

Gov. Christie issues statement:

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie released a statement about today's accident, which read:

"We are awaiting further details, but we are deeply concerned for the students on the bus and their families and can only imagine what they've been dealing with in the immediate aftermath of the crash. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved, especially those who have been injured."


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