Mike DavisAsbury Park Press
LAKEWOOD – Township police are investigating the second crash in three weeks involving a school bus owned and operated by Jay’s Bus Service.
Lakewood Police Capt. Gregory Staffordsmith said the school bus struck three vehicles Wednesday as it veered off Central Avenue, across the lawn of a single-family home and onto Glen Avenue. An unknown number of children were riding the school bus at the time of the incident, Staffordsmith said.
The bus driver, a 58-year-old Eatontown man, may have suffered a medical episode that caused or contributed to the incident, Staffordsmith said. Police are refusing to release the driver’s identity.
No injuries were reported from the crash, but the investigation is still active, Staffordsmith said.
The Lakewood Scoop reported Jay’s Bus Service had fired the driver, who had “prior incidents.” No one answered the phone at the bus company Thursday. An emailed request for comment was not immediately returned.
In a video of the incident posted by The Lakewood Scoop, the Jay’s Bus Service name can be clearly seen on the side of the school bus as it comes to a stop.
On Sept. 14, another Jay’s Bus Service school bus caused a five-vehicle pile-up after the driver, 50-year-old Jean Fontus, was seen “racing and tailgating” another vehicle, and attempting to illegally pass it, according to a police report.
As with Wednesday’s crash, the bus driver in the Sept. 14 pile-up was transporting children — 15 girls — to school.
Fontus was charged with reckless driving. He had been involved in four accidents since 2018, according to a driver history abstract provided by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
The abstract does not provide details of the incidents nor does it assign fault, either to Fontus or anyone else involved in the crashes.
Jay’s Bus Service is one of the biggest school bus contractors in New Jersey, especially at the Shore, where the company holds millions of dollars in contracts.
“It is always a concern, but we have to remember we are transporting 50,000 kids a day by bus,” Lakewood Mayor Ray Coles said in an interview. “One accident is too many. From the township end, we have to make sure they were trained properly. I don’t know if there is anything more we can do to make sure they are not a danger behind the wheel.”
The latest string of crashes are far from the first incident involving the Lakewood-based company’s drivers.
In June 2017, Howell resident Mark Waldhelm was convicted of DWI after he crashed a school bus shortly after taking the opiate oxycodone, he told officers at the scene.
It was his fourth school bus crash in two years.
In December 2019, raw video of a Jay’s Bus Service bus driving up onto a sidewalk to get around traffic went viral. The driver, Yaakov Stern, pleaded guilty to reckless driving and his license was revoked. A charge of driving on the sidewalk was dismissed, court records show.
It was Stern’s second school bus incident in six months, after he pleaded guilty to obstructing passage — though he originally was charged with failing to obey a traffic control device, such as a red light.