FORT LEE, N.J. (PIX11)—A parochial school student on a double-decker party bus with 65 other teens was killed Friday night when he stuck his head out of the hatch in the roof, hitting his head on an overpass. At the time, the bus was westbound on Interstate 95 near the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee.
Authorities say Daniel Fernandez, 16, of Woodside, sustained severe head trauma and died at Hackensack University Medical Center shortly after the accident, which happened around 6:45 p.m. Sixty-Five teens were on the way to a Sweet 16 party at the Venetian Catering Hall in Garfield.
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A Port Authority spokesman says as the bus was passing under the Fletcher Avenue overpass, Daniel's head struck the underside of the structure. Alex Franco was a security guard on the bus. He said he warned the teens three or four times about fooling around with the rooftop hatch.
He explained everybody was dancing around, having a good time, then it started to get pretty hot on board. Franco went downstairs to tell the driver, then the unthinkable happened. The kids -- traumatized - began screaming. He said he ran back upstairs to find Daniel on the floor, blood everywhere.
No one else was hurt, but the other teens are traumatized, emotionally. According to a report in the New York Daily News, one girl -- who had blood on her foot -- said she'd never seen anything like what happened to Daniel, adding she didn't think she'd be able to function after this. "Scarred forever," she said.
The ensuing accident investigation cased a traffic backup for miles for people heading to the Garden State. Asked if alcohol was a factor in the tragedy, Franco said he checked the kids for booze before they got on the bus, and none was served on board either. He said if the teens were, indeed, drinking, he didn't know anything about it.
The bus the teens were traveling on is a Mega Liner operated by Designer Limousines. It has two floors with a dance floor on the lower level, as well as touch-operated juice machines, satellite TV and WiFi, as well as a V.I.P. room and two sound systems. It can fit 70 passengers.
The company has offered its condolences to Daniel's family; officials say they plan their own investigation.
A candlelight vigil is scheduled for Saturday night; Daniel's wake and funeral will be Monday, Labor Day.
There's talk on social media among the students to wear blue polos in Daniel's memory on the first day of school.