Smashed, but somehow landing upright, the SUV ended up alongside Route 280. The vehicle had come from a roadway at least 40 feet above.
Other motorists stopped and rushed to the vehicle to help the victims. Five of the passengers - a woman and children - were then pulled free from the wreckage.
"They took out three kids, two boys and a young girl. Obviously, they were bloodied but they looked like they were ok. More like they were in shock. Then they got a female out," eyewitness Tim Williams said.
Williams, a retired U.S. Marine saw the unbelievable crash and took video at the intersection of Freeway Drive East and South Clinton Street in East Orange, where a tractor trailer came to a rest after Tim says it struck the SUV from behind.
"Then it became something like slow motion. The SUV hit the fence, kept on traveling up the fence, tipped over and fell," he said.
Police say the truck, in the center lane, was trying to make a turn when it collided with the SUV in the left lane.
"It appears as though the Honda Pilot hit the curb, started its vault and then hit the short wall, and then went down the embankment," inspector Thomas Koundry said.
The driver, a 46-year old father from Irvington, had to be extricated. Police say he is in critical condition at University Hospital. His 27-year old wife and children, who are seven, five, three and one year, are also hospitalized.
"There are abrasions and lacerations, but the children are all conscious and alert and being treated," Koundry said.
The truck driver was not injured and so far no charges have been filed.