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Authorities investigate if bus driver made illegal U-turn before deadly crash

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MOUNT OLIVE -

Officials in northern New Jersey have released few details about the cause of a deadly school bus crash in Mount Olive Thursday. But sources tell News 12 New Jersey that it is possible that the driver tried to make a U-turn on Interstate-80 using the cutout in the highway median.

The bus was one of three from East Brook Middle School in Paramus heading to Waterloo Village in Stanhope for a class field trip. It is believed that the driver may have missed the exit and tried to correct that mistake. The crash happened very close to Exit 25 when the bus collided with a dump truck.

RELATED: Teacher killed in deadly school bus crash identified
RELATED: Father of student in bus crash describes search for child

A teacher and a student were killed and over 40 others were injured.

News 12 New Jersey has confirmed that the 10-year-old girl who lost her life in the crash was Miranda Vargas. A GoFundMe campaign set up for her family had already exceeded its $20,000 goal by thousands of dollars Friday night. The teacher was Jennifer Williamson Kennedy.

Longtime accident investigator Donald Phillips with National Forensic Engineers is not involved in the accident investigation. But he tells News 12 New Jersey that he believes the theory of the illegal U-turn to be “preposterous.”

Phillips says that it is hard to imagine a school bus driver making such a dangerous maneuver. He also says that investigators still have a lot of information to put together to determine the cause of the crash.

Interview: NJ Statewide Traumatic Loss Coalition coordinator Maureen Brogan
RELATED: Parents rush to Paramus school following word of bus crash

Investigators will have to take data from the Engine Control Module on the dump truck. This will show at what speed the truck was traveling prior to the crash. It will also determine if the truck driver hit the brakes before impact. Investigators will also have to look at the chassis of the bus, to see if the damage is consistent with it being struck while making a U-turn.

The New Jersey State Police and Morris County Prosecutor’s Office are both investigating the crash.

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