It had all the makings of a severe tragedy -- an SUV collided with a school bus, which then crashed into a daycare center and erupted into a fireball. Still, witnesses chose just one way to describe what happened.
"This should be called 'The Miracle on Rockaway Parkway,'" Chantelle Registre told PIX11 News about the school bus that burst into flame on her mother's daycare center around 8:20AM.
"I heard a boom and I said, 'What the hell is going on?'" Chris Ulysse said. He had spent the night on the top floor of the three-story home at 1922 Rockaway Parkway which his grandmother owns, and which houses Little Andy's Daycare Center in its basement.
Everything about the situation was hazardous. A bus that carries children to school slammed into a facility that cares for children.
The subsequent explosion and fire blocked the front door of the home where the daycare is located. "I couldn't even see the sun," Ulysse told PIX11 News. "The smoke was that bad."
Despite those conditions, Arthur Registre, son-in-law of the building that houses the daycare, gave a description of the scene that many witnesses gave as well. "That's definitely a miracle," he said. "So God is good."
It was a whisper-close call. A look into the bus showed all of the seats inside burnt so severely that the seat covers and their padding had all burnt to ashes. Those same seats had been full of schoolchildren minutes before the collision. The children had recently been dropped off when the bus, which had been riding westbound on Avenue N, was hit by a 2005 GMC Yukon Denali, according to police. Avenue N intersects Rockaway Parkway approximately 300 feet from where the bus ended up coming to a stop.
The Denali's front end was collapsed to less than half its size, and part of its hood rolled back into its windshield. That damage provided a clear picture of how intense the impact was. What's not clear is how the crash happened. It caused the bus to veer half a block off, then smash through a steel gate and brick wall at the front border of the daycare's property.
Just behind that gate and wall is a front yard in which, every day, parents drop off their children between 8:00 and 8:45 every morning. "We had only four children here, and usually we have twelve," Dawn Courtney told PIX11 News. "During that time that's when everyone is coming in. It's amazing."
In other words, a seven ton, flaming bus landed on the very spot where children and parents would have been if the usual twelve kids had shown up Monday morning, instead of just four, for whatever reason. Everybody in the area who spoke with PIX11 News said they know what the reason is.
"It's a miracle," Dawn Courtney said, adding that the four children who were already at the daycare just happened to be at the back of the building when the collision and its aftermath took place. Courtney said the children were counseled and moved to a sister daycare facility two doors away from the one where the schoolbus landed. All four children are fine, she said.
The bus driver, as well as the driver of the SUV and his passenger, were transported in stable condition to local hospitals. The NYPD says it does not suspect criminality in this case, and does not intend to file charges.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun