D'Auria "was doing the Hail Mary," said a witness, Amy Harrelson, 17. She recalled that D'Auria said, "Let him live. If he doesn't live, I'm going to die."
Corson, 16, died several hours later at Cooper Hospital-University Medical Center in Camden. His friend D'Auria, 17, the driver, was listed in stable condition at Kennedy Memorial Hospital/Cherry Hill Division. Police said D'Auria had gotten his driver's license only about a month ago.
The Nova swerved and collided at 7:43 a.m. with an oncoming bus transporting adults to the occupational training center in Berlin, Cherry Hill Police Lt. Michael Nuzzo said.
The four bus passengers, two women and two men, and the driver were treated at West Jersey Hospital-Voorhees and released, Nuzzo said. The worst injury to the bus occupants was a cut lip, according to police.
It was the third school bus crash in South Jersey in two days. Fourteen people suffered minor injures in a Tuesday accident in Pemberton Township, and a collision yesterday morning in Springfield Township caused six minor injuries.
The Nova was headed north on Brace Road when it swerved near the
intersection with Munn Avenue, Lt. Nuzzo said. The passenger side hit the front left side of the small Ryder Student Transportation Services Inc. minibus, leaving Corson trapped inside the Nova's crushed metal frame, said witnesses who were in a car about 100 feet behind the Nova.
The witnesses included three students who had been heading for Cherry Hill West, the same school as D'Auria and Corson.
Becky McNichol, 16, said D'Auria managed to get out of the wreck and say, ''He's not breathing. He's not breathing."
"He (Corson) was pinned down," said Amy Harrelson as she clutched McNichol's arm. "The whole seat was flat. He was underneath."
Harrelson told of D'Auria repeating the Hail Mary prayer as he awaited rescuers. She rushed to her sister's house, nearby on Brace Road, and dialed 911.
Doctors at Cooper pronounced Corson dead three hours later.
Police were still investigating the accident's cause and had not determined whether Corson or D'Auria were wearing seatbelts. "We're still in the process of doing the followup," Nuzzo said. "I would think the wet roads was a factor involved. This morning, there was a lot of fog."
Cherry Hill West students and friends who were upset by the news were allowed to skip an afternoon pep rally and hang out in the auditorium and courtyard or go home, Principal Richard Simon said.
One student, however, expressed surprise that the rally, scheduled before the big annual football game between Cherry Hill West and East, got underway.
"It's kind of odd that they're still going on with the pep rally," she said.
But the principal said there was a reason for that. "I brought together a number of counselors . . . and the advice was to keep the day as normal as we could," Simon said.
Corson was described as a friendly teenager who interceded in fights, said a student who was protected once by Corson.
He was "a very warm, friendly human being who loved life and loved school," said district spokeswoman Laurie Zellnik, who is a neighbor of Corson's family in Cherry Hill's Haddontowne section. The D'Auria family lives there, too.
In Tuesday's school bus accident in Pemberton Township, 13 students and the bus driver suffered minor injuries when the bus went into a ditch after veering out of the way of an oncoming car.
In yesterday morning's Springfield Township wreck, six Northern Burlington Regional Junior High School students were sent to Memorial Hospital of Burlington County with minor injuries. The accident was at the intersection of routes 537 and 545.
The bus was traveling behind a station wagon headed north on Route 545. The wagon collided with a small dump truck headed east on Route 537, Trooper Brian Brennan said. After the collision, a trailer hitched to the truck swung around and hit the bus, causing minor damage, he said.
There aren't any signs of driver negligence or safety problems linking the recent spate of school bus accidents, Nuzzo said. He asked witnesses of the Cherry Hill accident to call police at 488-7828.