Two men died in a fiery crash after their Dodge Challenger slammed into a charter bus carrying nearly three dozen students as it pulled out from Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale late Thursday.
The crash happened close to midnight at the intersection of Northwest 27th Avenue and 11th Court, north of Sunrise Boulevard, police said.
The driver of the car, Cedric C. Camper III, 41, of Fort Lauderdale, “pretty much died on impact,” Officer Keven Dupree, a spokesman for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, said.
Camper’s passenger, Otis Harvey, 37, of Sunrise, was pronounced dead at Broward Health Medical Center, Dupree said. Kiana Young, 25, was drifting off to sleep when she heard the 11:47 p.m. crash. She and her sister ran outside to witness the blazing, chaotic aftermath of the collision.
“We weren’t sure if it was the bus that was on fire or the car,” she said. “I was telling the [students] to jump out the window because they couldn’t get out of the bus. They were throwing their things out of the bus windows and they were jumping out.”
The bus was returning from a four-day Tallahassee field trip and had 38 people on board — 34 students from McArthur, South Broward and Stranahan high schools, three chaperones and the bus driver. “As a precaution, one chaperone and one student were taken to the hospital to be checked out and were subsequently released,” said Nadine Drew, a spokeswoman for the Broward County School District.
“All of the kids were safely taken off of the bus,” Dupree said. “They had just dropped off a group of students at Dillard High School and were traveling to different schools throughout the county to drop students off.”
Crash happened about 11:45 p.m. Thursday in front of Dillard High School
About 3 a.m. Harvey’s frantic father showed up begging for information, Young said.
“Somebody tell me something. My son, is he dead for real?” Young said she heard him ask.
Young rubbed the distraught father’s back and tried to comfort him as more and more tearful relatives showed up. “People were crying. It was a really, really crazy night,” Young said.
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 her stepson 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,” Camper’s 21-year-old daughter, Cedejia, said. “He loved all his kids.”
She last saw her father Thursday afternoon at his house. Cedejia Camper broke into tears and had to cut the conversation short when she began to recount her last visit with her father Thursday afternoon at his house.
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, Dupree said.
“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.”
Moments after the burning car was extinguished “it whooshed up in flames” again,” Young said.
A parent ran back to his car, got a hammer and “busted out the glass of the vehicle and they were dragging the driver’s body out,” Young said. “I wasn’t sure if he was dead or not, but he was lifeless.”
People on scene next turned their attention to the passenger. The rescue effort was hampered, Young said when “his pants got caught on the wheel.”
“We thought the car was going to explode again,” she said.
When police arrived they attempted to revive the driver but he died instantly and was put on a stretcher and placed inside the ambulance, Young said.
“The other guy, they were working on him a long time,” she said. “I don’t know if he was in shock but he was like shaking really, really bad and they took him off in the ambulance.”
Camper and Harvey were familiar faces in the neighborhood, Young said. “I didn’t know them personally, they were just known in the neighborhood.”
The charter bus was from Academy Bus in Miami. Someone who answered the phone there Friday afternoon said: “At this moment we do not have a statement.”
The busload of students had participated in “Rally to the Tally for New Floridians.” About 300 foreign-born high school sophomores and juniors from 23 Broward public schools traveled to the state capital to participate in the program, Drew said.
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 in as many days that a crash involving a car and a bus has turned deadly. Early 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.
If you are injured in A Fort Lauderdale accident call J Scott Gunn.