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Passenger recalls New Jersey Turnpike Megabus crash that killed 2 people

Passenger recalls New Jersey Turnpike Megabus crash that killed 2 people
Passenger recalls New Jersey Turnpike Megabus crash that killed 2 people 02:05

WOODBRIDGE TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS) -- A regular trip to visit family turned into a nightmare. We're hearing from a Philadelphia native who survived a deadly bus crash on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The bus overturned after police say the driver lost control. 

The Megabus was traveling in the left lane of the outer roadway and a Ford-F150 was traveling in the left-center lane next to the bus. Investigators say based on preliminary information, the bus driver lost directional control of the bus and struck the Ford.

After the impact, the bus went off the road to the right, struck the guardrail and overturned onto the Thomas Edison Service Area entrance ramp.

Firefighters had to use the jaws of life to help rescue people inside.

No one was injured in the pickup truck, but state police say two people were killed on the bus, two others were seriously injured, including the bus driver, and 14 passengers received non-life-threatening injuries.

There were a total of 22 passengers on the bus.

On Wednesday, police said 66-year-old Cecilia Kiyanitza, of Woodbury, was transported to an area hospital where she succumbed to her injuries and 59-year-old Cheryl Johnson, of Bronx, New York, was pronounced dead on the scene. 

CBS3 spoke to a 23-year-old man about what he experienced on that Megabus when it crashed on the New Jersey Turnpike Tuesday night.

"I'm exhausted and confused and I'm still honestly processing," Reid Kleinman said.

Shortly before 7 p.m. Tuesday, Kleinman was sitting on the right side of the lower deck of the bus, reading a book on the ride from Manhattan to Philly to visit his parents.

"Kind of felt and heard like a pretty loud noise. And then the bus started vibrating and rattling and then it started to veer to the right across a couple lanes of traffic, smashed into the guardrail and flipped over," he said.

Kleinman's head slammed against the window he was sitting next to but he was able to get up. Despite his nose bleeding, he immediately sprung into action, opening the emergency exit, and helping a child off the bus before turning to assist others.

"My goal in that moment was to just help everybody get out of the bus because I didn't know if something was on fire," Kleinman said.

Most on the lower level with Kleinman escaped serious injury, though one man did break his hand and a woman was bleeding from her head. But the worst was what Kleinman experienced once he got out of the bus.

"The people that I was with weren't as bad as the people I saw when I got out of the bus. The guy with the broken hand, that didn't look very great. The bus driver's leg was very obviously broken. He was delirious. And then once I got out there were people that were yelling in pain and heads gushing with blood and it was just really overwhelming honestly," he said.

Recounting what happened, he cannot seem to shake this.

"That last half-second before the crash because that's when I thought 'I really hope this isn't it,'" Kleinman said.

CBS3 also spoke with a man who says he heard the crash and was one of the first on scene and helped pull passengers off the bus through the hatch and through windows.

"The people who were on the upper deck were the ones who really got injured," Gary Lee Fortner, a good Samaritan, said. "It really became surreal when an elderly gentleman, we pulled him out and almost seemed like three-quarters of his scalp was gone."

Fortner was driving back to Atlanta at the time. He says people had broken bones and scrapes and he helped the victims on board call their families.

Megabus released a statement on the incident, saying in part: "Our deepest condolences go to the families of the two deceased. We are currently working with the passengers and assisting them in a variety of ways."

Megabus is cooperating with authorities in the investigation. 

"They're usually smooth and respectful and clean, I've never had an issue," a rider said. 

Riders waiting to board the Megabus in University City tell Eyewitness News their nerves are a bit rattled after the deadly crash. 

"Really shocked about that because I actually hardly ever wear my seatbelt when I'm on the Megabus, so this is making me think twice about that," Christina Ngugi said.

The bus driver is a 56-year-old from Westville, New Jersey. He suffered serious injuries. No charges have been announced and New Jersey State Police say this crash remains under investigation.

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