As a school community took time to mourn and remember the school bus driver who was killed in a three-vehicle crash in Pittsgrove, Salem County on Friday, families of the two women who died in the crash Friday made it known that the ladies had been close friends.

Denise Powell, 60, was both a cafeteria worker and a school bus driver, according to Olivet School officials. She was involved in a multi-vehicle crash Friday that proved fatal for one other woman as well. That person was identified as 70-year-old Pearl Caudill.

Matthew Carey, the Superintendent of the Pittsgrove School District, released a statement saying Denise Powell would be truly missed.

"Please keep Mrs. Powell’s family and friends in your thoughts and prayers. Mrs. Powell was a beloved member of our district for over 20 years. She served as a bus driver and cafeteria worker. The children loved her and her colleagues did as well. She passed serving the school community, Denise Powell is a hero."

In a strange twist of fate, Denise Powell and Pearl Caudill not only knew each other, but their families also described the women as close friends. Denise Powell posted a photo of the two women together on her Facebook page in September.

NBC10 News spoke with Lauren Dinger, Pearl Caudill's granddaughter, who said, "Miss Denise and my grandmother knew each other on a close personal level, Birthdays, holidays, baby showers, they were together, yeah."

On Friday, October 15, the school bus being driven by Denise Powell, who was transporting 19 students from Olivet Elementary School, was traveling eastbound on County Road 540. At about 4 pm, the bus was hit by a Nissan Murano being driven by Pearl Caudill, when she apparently crossed the center lines and entered the eastbound lanes.
State Police say that after the impact, the school bus and the Nissan entered the westbound lanes and struck a Volkswagen causing all three vehicles to travel off the right side of the roadway.
Pearl Caudill died at the scene. Denise Powell, 60, of Newfield, was airlifted to Cooper Hospital where she was later pronounced dead.
The driver of the Volkswagen sustained moderate injuries and was transported to Inspira Medical Center Vineland. Two students were transported to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries for precautionary reasons, according to police.

Funeral services for Denise Powell are planned for Thursday, Oct. 21. No information was available concerning the funeral services of Pearl Caudill.

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