By: Tony Best
Several West Indians who live in Canada are today counting their blessings after escaping with their lives when a tour bus bringing them to New York from Toronto overturned in Northern New Jersey.
About 60 passengers, most of them Jamaicans, Grenadian and Barbadian who belong to the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Canada’s best known City were on their way to New York City to spend the extended holiday weekend with relatives, friends and worshippers of the prominent church but when the bus reached an exit ramp off an Interstate 80 exit in Wayne, New Jersey, it tumbled over an embankment and ended up on its side.
Several windows burst as the bus rolled over, leaving 23 passengers injured, eight of them in hospital with serious but non- life-threatening injuries, according to doctors at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in New Wayne. Most of the others escaped with minor scratches or bruises. There were no fatalities. The Seventh Day Adventists were on their way to the City to attend a church function. The others were simply visiting New York City to spend the week-end with relatives and friends in Manhattan and Flatbush in Brooklyn. Monday is Thanksgiving Day in Canada and Columbus Day in New York.
“It was terrifying,” said 66 year old Norma Trotman of Toronto.
Marjorie Trotman, Norma’s sister, told reporters she struggled to free her legs from luggage which had fallen on her during the collision but her main concern was trying to find her sister amidst the debris.
The bus had been chartered by the Toronto Church group and investigators who are trying to determine the cause of the accident said they are trying to determine if the driver was traveling at a high rate of speed and was unable to negotiate the curve coming off the exit ramp or if he simply fell asleep at the wheel. They are also trying to determine if alcohol or drugs may have played a part in the accident.
“I just felt a boom, people started flying,” said John Anthony, a passenger.
Warren Lawrence, who was also on the bus, said that passengers sprang into action to help their fellow travelers out of the bud, thus minimizing serious injuries.
“The bus was lying on its side and people wanted to get out,” Lawrence said.
The bus driver, Neville Larmond, 51, who suffered a gash on his arm, told police that the accident occurred when he was cut-off by another vehicle. The bus company later sent another vehicle to take the West Indians to their destinations in New York.
More than 25 passengers, including several West Indians have lost their lives in accidents involving tour buses in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut in recent years. Just last year, a bus bound to Philadelphia from Chinatown in Manhattan crashed into a pillar on the New Jersey Turnpike, killing the driver and a passenger. Fifteen people had earlier lost their lives when the bus in which they were traveling flipped over in Connecticut on I-95. Two years ago about six passengers, all of them Jamaican immigrants and their children who lived in the Bronx died when a church bus flipped over.