Newburgh, NY Tornado (Wind Storm) Hits School, Nov 1989
TOWN TRIES TO FATHOM DEATHS OF 7 STUDENTS KILLED IN SCHOOL COLLAPSE.
The Associated Press.
Newburgh -- District schools are closed today as a town mourns and officials try to help students cope with the deaths of seven elementary school children killed when a cafeteria wall collapsed during a violent storm.
The wall, approximately 30 feet high and 50 feet wide, caved in on a group of first, second and third graders as they were eating lunch Thursday at the East Coldenham Elementary School in the town of Newburgh, about 60 miles north of New York City.
Between 113 and 125 students were eating in the cafeteria when the brick, cinder-block and glass wall imploded, according to town of Newburgh Chief of Police JOHN KULISEK. In addition to the seven killed, 18 children were injured. All of the injured were between 6 and 9 years old.
KULISEK said that witnesses reported a tornado crossing Route 17K from the south, brushing past a nearby home and toppling a willow treet before slamming into the school.
The National Weather Service said Thursday it was unlikely the storm was a tornado. Meteorologist ROBERT BARTON of the Albany district office said a two-man team headed by meteorologist in charge ROLAND LOFFREDO would examine the damage more completely today.
Firefighters and police arrived at the Newburgh school within 15 minutes of the wall's collapse to find children calling out from under the rubble.
"Some were screaming, some were lying there very quiet," MAHONEY said. "You could hear them under the debris calling for help, calling 'Take me home, take me home.'"
The 18-year police veteran said he carried two injured children out of the school, one of them a little girl.
All of the children were freed from the rubble within half an hour. Crews had placed an emergency enclosure on the school by Thursday night to seal the hole.
Valley Central School District Superintendent JAMES COONAN said there would be no school today in any of the district's seven schools.
"We've already been in touch with trauma teams," COONAN said.
He said they would be available to children returning to school on Monday.
The seven dead students were identified Thursday night by New York State Police as:
AMY INNIS, 8 years old.
MARIA STUHMER, 8 years old.
LARAE LITCHHULT, 8 years old.
PETER ORSINO, 8 years old.
JOANNA LICHTLER, 7 years old.
CHARLES SCOTTO, 7 years old.
ADAM SOLTIS, 7 years old.
One boy who managed to get near the wreckage said he saw lunches and baked goods still sitting on some of the tables and milk spilled on the floor.
"There's two lunch boxes still sitting there," 12 year old SHAWN DEARBORN said.
KULISEK said an investigation would begin today on why the wall gave in. Meanwhile, school and local officials were trying to sort out their next moves.
Syracuse Herald Journal New York 1989-11-17
Please read this remarkable article on the disaster and its aftermath at archive.recordonline.com The Coldenham Generation.
Some meterologists believe this was not cause by a tornado but by a 'derecho' which is an intense straight line wind.