Weather Updates

Lake Villa seventh-grader tells tale of bus crash

Tori NicK Sabaj Lake Villa. Nick was passenger school bus thwas involved an accident tollway their way field trip. |

Tori and NicK Sabaj of Lake Villa. Nick was a passenger on a school bus that was involved in an accident on the tollway on their way to a field trip. | Special to Sun-Times Media

storyidforme: 42139610
tmspicid: 15578533
fileheaderid: 7018062

Updated: February 23, 2013 2:19AM

Christmas wishes came early for parents at Palombi Middle School last week, when 20 students walked away with non-life-threatening injuries after their school bus was struck from behind by a truck while traveling at highway speed.

Shortly after the accident, Palombi seventh-grader Nick Sabaj recalled the moment when a field trip down the Tri-State Tollway to see a Chicago Wolves game came to an unscheduled conclusion.

“I heard a big boom, and my friend kind of grabbed at me because (the truck) hit on the same side as me,” he said, adding that after the impact, “we felt the bus leaning, so we all leaned the other way.”

After the bus came to a stop, said Nick, he noticed that “we were sitting across three lanes of traffic, (and) the bus smelled awful,” with a burning smell probably caused by skidding tires.

For Nick and his classmates, most of the drama was over at that point, with squad cars and ambulances pulling up and first-responders initiating the process of getting students safely off the bus and determining who needed medical attention. For Nick’s parents and those of the other 40 students on the bus, a long wait for information had begun.

“It was terrifying,” said Nick’s mother, Tori Sabaj. “The school sent out a recorded message that said some of the buses on the field trip had been involved in an accident, and as soon as I heard the word ‘accident,’ I was on the phone.”

First, Sabaj texted Nick’s twin sister, Claire, who was also on the field trip. The good news was that Claire texted back, saying she was on a different bus. The bad news: she also reported that it looked like Nick was on the bus that was hit.

From there, Sabaj and her husband worked the phones and went on Facebook in an effort to find out anything they could. “We waited and waited and waited,” she said, adding that at one point, they were told that Nick was among the 20 students transported to a hospital. After some two hours, they finally received word from school officials that Nick was safely back at school, having only suffered a bloody lip.

“I got him on the phone,” Sabaj said, “and I said, ‘Are you OK?’ and he said, ‘I’m fine,’ and I said, ‘Do you want me to come get you?’ And he said, ‘I’m fine, mom. I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.’”

The happy ending to what could have been a holiday-season disaster was also well-received by Nick’s twin.

“When I saw my sister,” he said, “she ran over to me and started squeezing me to death.”

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.