Martinez, CA School Bus Crash Tragedy, May 1976

HEARTBREAK IN YUBA CITY -- BUS DISASTER AFTERMATH.

Yuba City -- School district headquarters became a disaster center, the scene of heartbreak for parents who learned their children were among those killed on a high school choir outing.
In the superintendent's office one middle-aged couple heard the worst -- their child was dead 80 miles away. The woman fell into her husband's arms and was overcome by grief. The father held a tight jaw.
Twenty-eight persons, including one choir director, were killed yesterday when a bus carrying the school choir smashed through a guardrail in Martinez and plummeted to the concrete 30 feet below.
"This tore the heart right out of the community," said one Yuba City resident.
KAREN HESS, student body president at Yuba City High School, said, "When the students found out, they were shocked, crying and just wandering around the campus."
Among the students was one set of twins and maybe two, a local reporter said.
An emergency bank of telephones flashed urgently with other parents and friends desperate for information from the scene of the accident.
Some parents could not sit by. They boarded a plane and flew to the Concord airport near the crash site and hospitals where survivors were taken.
The tragedy occurred at mid-morning as the youngsters from Yuba City High School in the Sacramento Valley were en route to Orinda for a performance.
The big yellow school bus has just crossed the Martinez-Benicia bridge over San Francisco Bay and was leaving the freeway to make a rest stop. The California Highway Patrol said the driver lost control of the chartered bus while negotiating a sharp turn on a highway off-ramp. The bus' roof was flattened when it landed on the hard-packed earth, crushing victims in their seats.
Twenty-six of the victims died at the scene of the crash. Police said one other person died on the way to a hospital and another died at one of the hospitals where the injured were rushed by more than 20 ambulances summoned to this suburb east of San Francisco.
It took two cranes to turn over the vehicle, and debris from the bus and personal belongings from the victims were piled nearby.
N. W. STIVER, deputy director of the Contra Costa County Office of Emergency Services, said he was on the scene when they lifted the bus.
"They had to inch it up, a little bit at a time. A body dangled out, one leg in one direction, another the other way."
"We have trains that come by and bump each other when they connect and make a loud noise," said KARLA ACKERMAN, 22, who lives near the fatal roadway. "That's exactly what it sounded like when the bus hit."
Rescue workers were at the scene within minutes, cutting through the jagged wreckage to reach the trapped victims. The dead were wrapped in white sheets and placed on the blood-stained ground where the bus came to rest. Several Roman Catholic priests administered last rites.
"It looked like a battlefield," said one of the priests, the REV. THOMAS HAYES. "The victims all were wearing casual attire and looked like they were on an outing -- it was tragic."
An emergency center set up downtown was besieged by distraught parents seeking word of their children.
"My daughter is one of them," sobbed one father. "I think she's dead. She was only 16 years old ...."
"Everybody was in critical condition," said MARY DUNTEN, information officer for Contra Costa County. "The bus was crushed so much that there wasn't anyone uninjured."
State School Supt. WILSON RILES said, "I am deeply grieved by this tragic occurrence and my heart goes out to the parents of these young people. California is a sad place today."
Rescue officials said they believed the bus was carrying 53 persons, including the driver and the wife of the faculty adviser to the Yuba City High School choir. But in the confusion that followed the tragedy, the officials said two or three students may have decided at the last minute not to make the trip -- placing the total number of passengers in question.
In addition to those on the 26-year-old yellow bus, another student and the group's adviser were reported to be traveling in a car. The adviser, choral director DEAN ESTABROOK, went into shock at the sight of the disaster, police said.
The driver of the chartered bus was EVANS PROTHERO, 49, according to an official of Student Transportation Lines in Marysville, a neighboring community to Yuba City is the fertile farmland north of Sacramento. He was in semi-critical condition with a lacerated back and liver at Veterans Administration Hospital after undergoing surgery.
The bus line official, HERB BROWN, said the bus had been inspected by the Highway Patrol within the past 30 days. Its rear tires were recaps, he said, but the front tires were not, in accordance with state law.
But an official of the California Highway Patrol said the bus, built in 1950, was last inspected on May 12, 1975. A minor defect -- loose seat fasteners -- was found and corrected, Insp. EDWARD JELICH said.

Daily Review Hayward California 1976-05-22

CASUALTY LIST TOLD
Martinez (AP) -- Here are the names of persons killed when a charter bus crashed off a freeway off-ramp near here Friday, as released by the Contra Costa County coroner's office. All are from Yuba City.
CONSTANCE ADKINS, 17.
MARLA AZIM, 15.
BONNIE BARFIELD, 18.
RUTH BOWEN, 16.
TOM BROOKS, 18.
RACHEL CARLSON, 16.
DANIELLE COTE, 15.
CARRIE EMMERICH, 15.
CARLENE EAGLE, 17.
SHARLENE ENGLE, 17.
PAM ENGSTROM, 18.
CRISTINA ESTABROOK, a music teacher and the only adult killed in the crash. No age available.
JIM FRANTZ, 17.
CYNTHIA GRAHAM, 17.
STEVE GUST, 15.
AMY HICKS, 18.
KRIS HUSTON, 16.
LORI KILLINGSWORTH, 18.
JOANNE MATSON, 15.
JODIE McCOY, 18.
MARTI MELANI, 18.
CATHERINE MUDGE, 16.
BOBBY ORTEGA, 16.
ROBERT RANDOLPH, 17.
LARRY ROONEY, 15.
SETH ROSEBROUGH, 16.
LARRY SHEARER, 14.
ROBERT STAFFORD, 17.

The Times San Mateo California 1976-05-22

Comments

Bus crash 1976

I will never forget that day I was seven month pregant and was driving home from a doctors appointment when a news report came on the radio. I knew within seconds that my sister-inlaw was on that bus. The lack of communication in 1976 seem like days before anyone knew who was killed and who and where the survivors were. I will not post my sister-laws name but she still is struggling with emotional and physical scares that will never go away my prayers are with you and hope all good things for you. Thank you for starting this.

i am a instructor for the

i am a instructor for the state of california and i am trying to get info and picture if the martinez accident, if anyone can get info please email me at statrainerloc536@yahoo.com

bus crash in 1976

hi" i dont now about he crash but my mom told me a some time back!! i was 1 years old do you have is thair some photos on the crash?

Tragic Bus Crash in '76

I was a 16 year old kid living in Benicia at the time. I remember this day very well. I believe I came home from school and my Mom told me - I remember the inpact it had on me as I was walking over to a friends house to tell him. It was a very somber day in the Bay Area, Things like this should never happen to children - I'm sorry for the loss of the children and adults and for the suffering of their families. God Bless Them All!

Website dedicated to the accident.

concordandtime.com has full photos and news articles of that tragic day.

photos/pictures

Does anybody has pictures or videos ? I am trying to put someting togeter for a proyect

Remembering Danielle Cote

Dear Claudette and family,
There is not a day that goes by that I do not remember that awful day. I can remember so many vivid details and conversations we had, and the stories you shared about Danielle the day she left the house and said goodbye to her sisters. I can only remember witnessing your grief and feeling my own sorrow and disbelief. I think of you often and pray that you are doing well. A lot has happened in 32 years, but the memory of Danielle and your family has remained with me and my family. I have been a nurse now since 1979. What an inspiration you were to me. If you happen to read this, I would love to hear from you. Love and prayers, Pat

May 1976

I am a California Schoolbus Driver who accasionally visits that site where the crash site was.
I would like to give my condolences to the families & victims of this terrible crash.
I could recall being near the site very eerie like someone else was there.
Just recently the Marina Vista off-ramp was renamed WaterFront when the new bridge went up. it's hard not to think about that when I pass by that exit.
I was 2 years old at the time but I can recall hearing about the accident most of my life.
More photos and details can be found in the N.T.S.B. report.

i will never forget

this is something i myself will never forget. I was a 9th grader, just starting high school when this happened. I remember mrs estabrook i have tried not to talk about this but the reason that i remember this is that i should of been on that bus, i wanted to be in the choir , i begged my daddy to let me be in the choir and he repeatedly refused, i hated him for that. when asked for a reason why he wouldn't let me join he just replied " you would have to go out of town" i really couldn't understand his logic . I should of been there.. Maybe he had some kind of premonition. I remember the day the bus left the campus , i went to school feeling really bad because i really wanted to be in the choir go places you know.i actuall was envious of those who got to go. MAY WE NEVER FORGET THESE BRIGHT AND TALENTED YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN!!!!!

I was 12 years old and in

I was 12 years old and in the eight grade when this happened. We lived in Vallejo and my mother was a school bus driver at the time. She stopped driving after that.

I now work in Yuba City and live in the community those students were from. They are not forgotten and are still mourned.

What a tragedy; what a horrible tragedy.