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Firefighter reflects on 1 year since deadly school bus crash

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Friday will mark one year since a deadly school bus accident on Interstate 80 in Morris County.

On the eve of the anniversary, News 12 New Jersey spoke with a firefighter who was first on the scene thanks to being in the right place at the right time.

Roselle firefighter Zach Weissglass says that he knows that he was meant to be a first responder. The 25-year-old says that he loves to help people. But he says that he had no idea the impact he would have on May 17, 2018.

“I was just getting off shift. I was going to visit my dad in Pennsylvania,” he says.

What started off as a normal drive on I-80 quickly changed course when Weissglass witnessed a Paramus school bus start to make an illegal U-turn on the highway and get struck by a dump truck.

“I immediately stopped and I thought the bus was empty at first,” he says. “I went to go see if the driver was OK and at that point, I realized the bus was filled with children…It was actually surprisingly quiet because all the kids were in shock.”

The bus was filled with fifth-graders from East Brook Middle School on their way to a field trip.

“A lot of them were cut up…had minor injuries. A couple of them were major injuries and…two of them were under the seat, so I actually had to pry the seat to get them out.”

Weissglass was able to work with an off-duty FDNY EMT and a nurse who stopped to help. They were able to get students off the bus while first responders arrived.

“Me and the FDNY medic bandaged a bunch of patients. I was able to get a medical bag from a transport company,” Weissglass says.

He says that this is something that he has trained for, but it was different to see it in real life.

“Every time I pass the scene, the two or three crosses sitting there and every time I look at it, it brings up memories,” he says.

Weissglass has received many awards for his action on that day. But he says that while it is nice to be recognized, he was just doing his job.

A student and teacher died in the crash. The bus driver has been charged with vehicular homicide.


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