A 16-year-old boy from Sayreville riding on a bus full of teenagers heading to a Sweet 16 was killed Friday after he stuck his head out of a roof hatch on the bus and hit an overpass as the vehicle drove on Interstate 95 southbound, near the George Washington Bridge, an official said.
The teenager suffered severe trauma when he hit his head on the Fletcher Avenue overpass as the double-decker party bus traveled into New Jersey from Queens between 6:30 and 6:45 p.m., said Port Authority Police spokesman Al Della Fave. The boy was pronounced dead at Hackensack University Medical Center around 7 p.m.
The victim was identified by a law enforcement source as Daniel Fernandez.
Many of the distraught bus passengers ran onto the highway after the incident, Della Fave said. A Port Authority police lieutenant managed to “commandeer” another bus and bring the young people to safety at the agency’s Fort Lee office. No one else on board was injured.
The roof hatch was found bent back into the vehicle, Della Fave said.
A driver and an assistant were also on board during the incident, along with 65 teenagers, he said. It was not immediately clear if the group was associated with a single school or organization.
Worried parents arrived at the Port Authority’s Fort Lee administration building late Friday.
“We just want to get our kids,” said one woman, who declined to give her name.
Another man, who said his son was on the bus, was visibly shaken to learn that someone had died in the accident, although he said he didn't know the victim.
As parents whisked their kids out the side door of the Port Authority building and into their cars, a group of three girls was seen crying and hugging, apparently comforting one another, but waved reporters off.
As news of the tragedy spread, teens posted messages of grief on Twitter.
"I want to wake up this morning and be able to change everything. I wish there was something I could do to stop this," user @A_coolestgirl tweeted.
"Sitting here with your blood on my foot wishing this was all a bad dream. I love you so much dan you were there for me till the last second," @VBudz posted.
The bus company, New York-based Designer Limousines, did not respond to calls for comment.
All southbound lanes of the highway were closed in the area as authorities continued to investigate late Friday, according to the state Department of Transportation. Delays were reported on the westbound lanes of the George Washington Bridge.
Updated 11 p.m. Friday.