Father of student in bus crash describes search for daughter

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PARAMUS -

The father of one of the students involved in a serious school bus crash on Interstate-80 Thursday described his harrowing effort to be reunited with his injured daughter in the wake of the crash.

Taylor Lee says that he rushed to Morristown Medical Center when he heard that his daughter was hurt in the crash, but says that when he got there, there wasn’t any patients named Sophie Lee. But he says that hospital staff thought that they found her.

"We think that we may have located your daughter.  She fits your daughter's description,” Lee was told.

RELATED: Teacher killed in deadly school bus crash identified
RELATED: Students, teachers injured in school bus crash taken to 6 hospitals

Lee says that the young girl he was shown was in a coma, but he soon realized that it was not his daughter.

"The first thing I saw was the little girl's feet.  For me, that point is when I knew instantaneously it wasn't Sophie.  I recognized her feet.  The little feet were just very thin and frail looking.  And I immediately glanced up at her face and confirmed it wasn't Sophie,” he says.

It turns out that Sophie’s concussion as so bad that she had given the hospital a different name. It took several more hours before Lee found his daughter.

"I just went up to her and whispered in her ear, ‘Daddy's here.’  She just looked at me for four of five seconds and then she just started bawling and screaming, ‘I love you daddy’ over and over and over,” he says.

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

Sophie was sitting in an aisle seat in the third row on the bus when it collided with a dump truck near Exit 25 in Mount Olive. The East Brook Elementary School fifth-grade class was heading to Waterloo Village for a class trip. Over 30 fellow students, along with several teachers and chaperones were also injured. One student and a teacher lost their lives.

“[Sophie] woke up and remembers crawling out from underneath the bus and finding a lot of bodies on the ground,” Lee says. "She heard a lot of crying and screaming and she remembers a boy lying motionless."

Lee says that he is grateful that his youngest child is OK, but says that the image of the other girl in the coma is one that he will never forget.

"I happened to run into her dad in the hallway at the hospital and the look of devastation and numbness,” Lee says.

Authorities are still piecing together the cause of the crash. Lee says that he just wants to focus on the families affected by the tragedy.

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