A school bus driver was killed and six others, including four children, were injured when the bus was hit head-on by an out-of-control cement truck Monday afternoon near the LIRR overpass in Locust Valley, Nassau County police said.
The truck, from Nicolia Ready-Mix of Lindenhurst, was too high to fit beneath the overpass on Oyster Bay Road, and it hit the stone structure at about 3:20 p.m., said Nassau police Insp. Kenneth Lack.
Hitting the overpass "dislodged the barrel of cement, causing the driver to lose control," Lack said.
"The driver apparently did not know his truck would not fit under the overpass," he said. Signs on both sides of the road indicated the clearance was 10 feet, 1 inch, he said.
The southbound truck then careened into the oncoming bus, police said. The force of the crash melded the fronts of the truck and bus, tangling the metal of the vehicles. When it was over, the truck rested on top of the front half of the crumpled bus and the cement barrel lay under the overpass.
Police said the truck's speed was not known.
The names of the injured, including the bus driver killed, were not released.
A 64-year-old bus attendant was in good condition Monday evening at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, police said, and the 44-year-old truck driver's injuries were not life-threatening.
Four children on the bus were injured, but three were released by evening, authorities said.
The children were going home from a day camp run by Oyster Bay Town's Group Activities Program at the Syosset-Woodbury Community Park, town officials said. The town provides sports, and arts and crafts for children and young adults with developmental disabilities, while the Locust Valley school district supplies the transportation, town officials said.
Three boys, a 9-year-old and two 6-year-olds, were alert and in stable condition at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, where they were evaluated as a precaution, said hospital spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg. Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto said they were released last night, but a fourth boy, 6, was being kept at NUMC for observation.
Cynthia Robson sat with her arm around her boy, Daniel, 6, in the waiting room of NUMC. Daniel was released, having suffered minor injuries, with Band-aids on scraped knees and a cut on his left cheek. His mom said he told her he also had a headache.
"I felt a rattle," said Daniel, who had been in a right side seat at the rear of the bus and was wearing a seat belt. "It was a really bumpy one. Everything was blurry."
His mother said the children on the bus always wore seat belts and her son was "lucky" to be sitting in the back. "It's amazing that it didn't explode," she said to him. "I think God was with you." Daniel replied, "Maybe God stopped the bus from being exploded."
Attempts to reach Nicolia officials at their offices, work phones and home phones were unsuccessful. Its website said it has six plants on Long Island and supplies concrete material, which helped build the federal courthouse in Central Islip.
The Locust Valley school district confirmed its bus was involved and officials had been told the driver died at the scene. "As always, the safety and well-being of our students and staff is a top priority for our district," Superintendent Anna F. Hunderfund said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with the students and staff members involved in this accident, as well as their families."
The crash delayed several Long Island Rail Road trains, a spokesman said.
Venditto said a town psychologist with experience in grief counseling would be available to speak to the boys, their camp mates and families.
Robson had rushed to the scene after getting a call from another Locust Valley mother whose son is in the program and who heard the sirens. At the accident site, she and the other mother saw the truck and the posted clearance sign, said Robson. "It was too high to go under the train trestle," Robson said. "It looked . . . like the bus driver saw him coming and veered to try to go out of the way, but there was a hill and trees and there was nowhere for him to go."
With William Murphy, Scott Eidler and Ellen Yan