Mother of 7-year-old thanks good Samaritans who helped children off overturned bus

AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — It was a scary scene as cars passed an overturned school bus on the 290. The Friday early morning accident sent six people to the hospital, including Tabitha Paradiso’s seven-year-old daughter.

“I was hysterical,” said Paradiso. “I was crying, I was screaming on the phone between phone calls.”

It’s a call no parent wants to get.

“I had found out not long after that the bus had flipped over,” said Paradiso. “It was a rollover accident.”

Paradiso’s daughter Juliana was on that bus. The seven-year-old was headed to the Beyond Learning Center in Depew when her school bus and a pickup truck got into an accident.

5 students injured, 1 adult seriously hurt after school bus crash on I-290 in Amherst

It happened just before 8 a.m. in Amherst on the I-290 East.

“It’s a special needs bus, I know these kids a lot of times are not verbal,” added Paradiso. “They’re going to pretty much the same school my daughter is. And all I’m thinking is, they don’t know what’s going on, how scared are they, I mean how bad are they injured.”

Juliana, four other students, a bus aide and the bus driver lived through those terrifying moments.

Jessica Verstreate witnessed the accident in real-time.

Verstreate said she was running late to work, but decided to pull over and help.

“It’s a school bus, there’s gotta be kids on it, it’s early in the morning,” said Verstreate. “You know — maternal instinct kicked in, make sure the kids are okay.”

“I went to the back of the bus and I was helping the kids out of the emergency door out of the back of the bus,” added Verstreate. “They were scared, you could tell. There was a little boy that came out and he was missing his shoe. And he was just crying and he was initially holding his shoulder.”

The five students on board the bus were rushed to Oishei Children’s Hospital for evaluation.

They’ve all since been released, according to Kaledia Health.

Verstreate told News 4 that the bus aide was pinned underneath the crushing weight of the school bus.

“My main concern was getting the kids off and then I realized that the bus aide was there,” added Verstreate. “We all did the one, two, three — push the bus up and pull the guy out.”

The aide was taken to ECMC, where they remain in serious condition.

Tabitha Paradiso is just glad there were people like Jessica who were willing to stop and help.

“I am so thankful to know that those kids and my daughter weren’t sitting on that bus waiting for help,” said Paradiso.

Paradiso said her daughter Juliana is doing well, only suffering some bruising.

Meanwhile, Amherst Police ask anyone who may have witnessed or has video of the accident to contact them at 716-689-1355.

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Patrick Ryan is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

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