Police said the crash happened close to midnight at the intersection of Northwest 27th Avenue and 11th Court, north of Sunrise Boulevard.
Officer Keven Dupree, a spokesman for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, said that the driver of the car, 41-year-old Cedric C. Camper III, of Fort Lauderdale, “pretty much died on impact.”
Camper’s passenger, 37-year-old Otis Harvey of Sunrise, was pronounced dead at Broward Health Medical Center.
Witness Kiana Young, aged 25, says she was in bed when she heard the crash at 11:47 p.m. She and her sister ran outside to witness the fiery aftermath. She claims it was difficult to tell whether the bus or the car was on fire, but that the students had resorted to taking their belongings and jumping out the window on the bus because they couldn’t get out through the doors.
The bus was returning from a 4-day field trip in Tallahassee at “Rally to the Tally for New Floridians” and had 38 people on board. 34 were students McArthur, South Broward, and Stranahan high schools, three were chaperones, and the final person was the bus driver. Nadine Drew, spokeswoman for the Broward County School District, said that “as a precaution, one chaperone and one student were taken to the hospital to be checked out,” but they were subsequently released.
According to Dupree, all of the kids were safely taken off of the bus.
School officials offered trauma-support and counseling services Friday. “Today, principals and district staff continue to work with the families of students and staff members aboard the charter bus involved in last night’s accident in Fort Lauderdale,” Drew said. “Counselors are available to provide additional support to anyone needing assistance.”
This is the second time this week that a fatal crash involving a bus and a car has occurred. Early on Thursday, a Tamarac man was killed and his passenger hurt when the car they were in slammed into the back of a Broward County Public School bus in Pembroke Pines.
Young said that Harvey’s father showed up to the scene around 3 am, begging for information on the status of his son. More and more tearful relatives showed up throughout the night, crying as they tried to get information about Harvey.
On Friday afternoon, Harvey’s sister, Amber Harvey, said “We’re not doing so good.” She declined to say more.
Harvey’s stepmother, Mattie Ellison, said that Harvey was born and raised in Broward County and had a 6-year-old daughter. “He was just a fun-loving guy always with a smile, laughing,” she said. “He was a great dad.”
Camper was also a father. “My dad was a very caring, very giving, very loving man, and that’s all I can really say about him,” said Camper’s 21-year-old daughter, Cedejia. “He loved all his kids.”
Cedejia last saw her father Thursday afternoon at his house. She was too emotional to continue to recount the story of her last visit with him.
A preliminary investigation shows the bus appeared to be making a left turn from northbound 27th Avenue onto westbound 11th Court, and the car was traveling southbound on 27th Avenue.
“This is all preliminary,” Dupree said. “At this time it’s still an ongoing investigation. We really don’t know what the cause of the accident was. It will take some time for us to get results and lab tests from the Medical Examiner’s Office.”
Young said that moments after the burning car was extinguished, it caught fire again. According to her, a parent ran back to the car, got a hammer, and “busted out the glass of the vehicle, and they were dragging the driver’s body out.” She was unsure whether he was dead at the time, but described him as “lifeless.”
People next attempted to rescue Harvey, but had difficulty because his pants were caught on the wheel and they were afraid the car would catch fire a third time.
When police arrived they attempted to revive the driver, but he had died instantly and was put on a stretcher and placed in an ambulance.
“The other guy, they were working on him for a long time,” said Young. “I don’t know if he was in shock but he was shaking really, really bad and they took him off in the ambulance.”
According to Young, Camper and Harvey were familiar faces in her neighborhood.
The charter bus was from Academy Bus in Miami. Someone who answered the phone on Friday afternoon said: “At this moment, we do not have a statement.”