Lamont, AB Train And School Bus Accident, Nov 1960

"EVERYTHING SEEMED TO FLY UP, BOOKS AND BODIES" SAY WITNESS.

Lamont, Alta. (AP) -- School-teacher LOIS STEFURA was driving her car behind the Lamont school bus Tuesday as it turned off a highway and headed for a grade crossing.
"I thought: 'If he doesn't stop, the train will hit the bus,'" she said.
"But I saw he stopped and I thought everything was all right. When I looked again the bus was pulling out onto the tracks. The train horn was blowing so loudly I thought everyone must hear it."
"The next instant everything seemed to fly up. Books and bodies. I thought everyone must be dead. Then I saw a boy move."
What MRS. STEFURA had watched was a Canadian National Railways freight train tearing into the packed vehicle, killing 16 teen-age pupils and injuring 25 others and the bus driver.
Fourteen of the 16 dead were girls. Many of MRS. STEFURA'S own pupils were on the bus. The youngest of the dead was 15, the oldest 18.
The bus usually carried 44 pupils -- two missed it Tuesday -- on its daily trip from Chipman, 10 miles southeast to this central Alberta town of 600 residents. Lamont is 45 miles northeast of Edmonton, the provincial capital.
It was a few degrees below zero and bus windows were frosted, but the air was crisp and clear as driver FRANK BUDNEY, 31, took his bus up the short, snow-covered grade to the tracks. The view is unobstructed in each direction.
Some believe BUDNEY may have been blinded by the sun. The sun and the train were to his right. Hospital authorities would not allow an interview with BUDNEY.
"The bodies were so tangled I couldn't recognize anyone, yet I knew them all," said MIKE KONSORETI, a rescue worker.
"We had a lot of difficulty separating the dead and injured. The bodies were pressed together and some were jammed between twisted pieces of metal."
The 27-car freight hit the bus broadside at 50 miles an hour, dragging it a quarter of a mile along the tracks. The rear of the bus was flipped into a field, along with the front and rear wheels.
The main part of the bus was wrapped around the train's diesel engine. The quarter-mile patch was strewn with clothes, books and bodies.
JOHN WINNICK, 16, was the only one not hospitalized. Three of his cousins died. WINNICK was sitting in the rear.
KEITH TOMPKINS, at 12 the youngest on the bus, managed a smile today from his bed in crowded Archer Memorial Hospital.
"I heard a bang and the next thing I knew I was sitting in a ditch," the boy said.
KEITH'S brothers, TOM, 13, and ROBERT, 15, were in the rear of the bus when the train struck it squarely in the middle.
"I found TOM in the wreckage," KEITH said. "He didn't know where he was. ROBERT was walking up the tracks, looking a little dazed."
Rescuers needed a tractor and acetylene torches to release some of the injured.

Daily Globe Ironwood Michigan 1960-11-30

Comments

Lamont, Alberta Train and School Bus Accident November 29, 1960

In my position of assistant paperboy in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, I saw the grim picture of the crumpled bus with each folded (Tuesday) November 29, 1960 edition of the Star Phoenix I delivered that day. Only two months before my 11th birthday, that picture and story of the accident would have an effect on my memory when I drove to Edmonton during my move to the provincial capital in September and October 1974.
As a non paralytic polio survivor from 1951-52, my eyes were always sensitive and smarting whenever I would shovel snow and experience the intense glare from the sunlight. The maximun tinted lenses I wore since the fall of 1968 did help. However, I always seemed to remember the Chipman trajedy whenever I was driving in the winter.
Remembering the trajedy helped me complete sixteen weeks of driving to Slave Lake and Drayton Valley in Alberta from September to December in 1984 when I was delivering a math class to adult students while a resource tutor with Athabasca University.

Posted November 27/2010 My

Posted November 27/2010

My Great uncle was the engineer on that train. He never recovered and drank himself to death... Bill McIver. Another fatality...

Interestingly, Edward Keufler, a friend of mine (he being aged 65, I being 40) were having a chat just two weeks ago about this; he as a young lad of 17, was one of the first responders...

Ian is correct, The Engineer

Ian is correct, The Engineer was his great uncle and he was also mine.

Bus Train Accident November 1960

I was in grade 2 and attended the Lamont Elementary School. l was at home, sick with chicken pox and remember quite well, the day of the crash. My father, Mike Rakowski, who was the barber in town, had driven to the school to let my teacher know l would not be in and see if there was any homework l could do while not attending school.
Dad had just turned right (south) onto the road which led to the school. As he past the school, he made a U turn where the buses were staged. As he pulled up in front of the elementary school and got out of the car he looked across the road and there was Mrs. Short, a teacher who lived north of Lamont, getting out of her car screaming and pointing to the south towards the wreck. Dad looked and saw what had happened. He jumped into his car and drove down main street blowing his car horn to get everyone's attention. He told everyone what had happened and the whole town sprung into action. Roman Fedun and the mechanics from Mitchell's Garage loaded oxy-acetylene bottles onto the tow truck along with a tractor and whatever they thought they would need. People from the bank, pharmacy, grocery stores as well as the folks from Kroenings Garage also made their way to the carnage.
l remember quite well, looking out of the window of our living room to see what was going on some three blocks away (as the crow flies). The CFRN new helicopter, which was a new way of reporting at the time, flew above the wreckage and recorded what was going on. We all watched in disbelief when we watched the evening news.
The next day, my dad drove my sisters and myself to see what had happened. There were books, scribblers, binders, clothes and a few body parts on both sides of the tracks. l remember a scalp lying on a railroad tie which made me wonder at the time, how this could happen.
The wreckage of the bus sat in the garbage dump for many years; a reminder to all the saw it, how quickly something so horrible could happen. For years, l would come to the crossing and sit and wonder just what had happened....had the bus driver not opened the frosted door, was there so much noise on the bus that no one could hear the train whistle ...what went wrong?!
l cannot remember a lot of talk of the accident as l went through my latter years in school. A memorial of sorts was put in the hall of the high school next to all the graduation pictures with the pictures of all the kids who lost their lives that day in November.

Bus Crash Lamont

My dad, Karl Koch, worked at Ar her Memorial Hospital and he was called. In to help out with all the injuries. For years, I remember my dad talking about the horror of that bus crash, like it was a war zone. I also remember years later walking down that road past the site of the crash, if you looked, you could still see bits and pieces of twisted metal and debris. It was an eerie place to walk past. I believe this goes down in Lamont's history as being one of the worst things to happen to our sweet little town.