A New York City-bound commuter bus hit a mini school bus from behind, knocking it onto its side, and then slammed into a tree, injuring at least 17 people, two critically, authorities said.
No students were on the Old Bridge school bus, which was on its way to pick up children at an apartment complex, officials said.
The tree caved in the front of the commuter bus, shattering its windshield and pinning the driver's legs. A large branch protruded from the vehicle's roof.
The Academy Bus was about midway through its route from Toms River to Wall Street in Manhattan, with four stops left on the run, said Joe Orlando, spokesman for Academy Bus. He didn't know how many passengers were aboard though he said the bus could carry 55.
The school bus was slowing down to make a right turn off Route 9 to pick up students at an apartment complex when the commuter bus hit it from behind, police Capt. Arthur Carullo said. The collision caused the school bus to flip onto its left side, atop a fenced-off backup power supply station.
"Thank God there were no children on that bus," Orlando said. "You always fear the worst when you see something like that."
The driver of the 24-passenger school bus and an aide were able to escape out a roof hatch, police said.
Orlando said none of the injuries were believed to be life-threatening.
The most seriously injured victims, the 42-year-old male driver of the commuter bus, and a 31-year-old female passenger, were reported in critical condition at Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center. Fifteen others were in stable condition at branches of Raritan Bay Medical Center, a hospital spokesman said.
The accident apparently happened along the shoulder, which becomes a bus lane during rush hour.
The commuter bus' driver began work at Academy in May, Orlando said. The vehicle has an onboard camera and its footage will be reviewed by police, he said.