Two people died on Friday after an SUV collided with a school bus carrying 19 elementary students home from school in Salem County.
The bus, traveling east on Route 540 in Pittsgrove Township, was struck by a Nissan Murano which authorities said had drifted down the center line. This impact caused the bus and SUV to collide with a Volkswagen Jetta, and all three vehicles rolled off the side of the road, according to a state police press release.
SUV driver Pearl Caudill, 70, of Pittsgrove, was pronounced dead at the scene. Bus driver Denise Powell, 60, of Newfield, was airlifted to Cooper Hospital but later succumbed to her injuries, state police said.
The driver of the Volkswagen was not identified by state police but was taken to a Vineland hospital with moderate injuries. Two students were taken to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
The Pittsgrove School District released a statement on Saturday identifying the driver as Denise Powell, who was also a cafeteria worker in the district.
“Ms. Powell was assigned to the # 33 bus and was involved in a tragic accident yesterday afternoon on her way to Olivet School,” District superintendent Matthew Carey said in a statement on Saturday. . “It is a tragic event that will be with our community forever. Ms. Powell was a beloved member of our community for over 20 years. The children loved him and his colleagues too. She went to the service of the community[;]Denise Powell is a heroine.
The statement acknowledged that passers-by stopped to help after the crash, including Emily Cannon, the president of the school board.
State police said their investigation into the crash was ongoing.
CORRECTION: This story originally reported the incorrect ages of Pearl Caudill and Denise Powell due to an error in the State Police press release. The ages have been corrected.
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Bill Duhart can be reached at [email protected].