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New Smithville, PA Bus Crashes Through Guardrail, July 1970



Allentown, Pa. (UPI) -- A chartered bus carrying school children on a tour of the Pennsylvania Amish country skidded in a rainstorm and rolled over a 50-foot embankment Wednesday, pinning dead and injured in the wreckage.
Seven children were killed and 51 other persons on the bus were injured, police said.
The dead were identified as:
BONNIE EISENBERG, 437 Beach 123rd St., Belle Harbor, N.Y.
NANCY JACOBSON, 1071 Fordham Lane, Woodmere, N.Y.
RANDEE LEWIS, 568 Norman Way, Woodmere, N.Y.
RANDI PRESS, 486 Oxford Road, Cedarhurst, N.Y.
SPENCER JAFFE, 43 Lawrence Avenue, Lawrence, N.Y.
JOHATHAN ELSTEIN, 818 Cornaga Ave., Far Rockaway, N.Y.
LISA GERSTMAN, 43 Cloverdale Rd., Valley Stream, N.Y.
Loaded with children and counselors from the Hillel School, a private Jewish day school in Lawrence, N.Y., the bus skidded on a slight curve on rain-slick U.S. 22, 10 miles west of Allentown.
The bus ripped through guardrails, fell nose first down the hill, flipped over and landed against the stone foundation of an old vacant house, a state trooper said. The roof and the side of the bus were ripped open.
One of the children, DANIEL STEINBERG, 11, of Far Rockaway, N.Y., said the bus went into a spin, "rotating around me."
"It went side to side down the hill," he said, "and when it stopped I looked and saw a little hole to the left of me, a foot wide, and I and about six others crawled through the hole."
Some of the occupants were thrown from the bus and about six persons were pinned beneath it. Others were trapped inside.
"It was a mess," said State Trooper ROBERT CLARSON, one of the first persons at the crash scene. "There were children all over -- in the embankment, in the grass, in the bus."
"They were crying and very upset. Most of them appeared to be in shock."
A dozen motorists and truck drivers stopped to administer first aid, he said. "They tried to comfort the children, to stop the bleeding with towels and blankets."
Anguished parents gathered at the plush school in Lawrence, a wealthy New York City suburb, after they were told about the crash. Many of them just wandered aimlessly through the corridors.
Some set out in cars or on a small commuter airlines flight to get to Allentown. Other parents obtained reservations on two commercial airline flights.
School officials told the parents they would be notified when word of their children was received from Allentown. At least five of the injured were counselors, a spokesman said.
Some of the truckers who stopped at the crash scene brought hydraulic jacks and helped life the wrecked but with cables. Rescue crews then combed through the rubble. Nine ambulances took the dead and injured away.

The Post-Standard Syracuse New York 1970-07-16


I find it quite amazing that

I find it quite amazing that even though it has been 44 years since this tragic accident, the trauma of all of us still remains.
I was very friendly with Spencer Jaffe, and I recall just before leaving to Israel for the summer he begged me to stay home and attend Hillel daycamp.
I was already registered for the Victor Geller Camp Yaron program otherwise I could've very well been on that bus.
I did not find out about the accident until the end of July when I visited a friend who had made aliyah.
Even then the details were not disclosed until I came home.
I remember the audio connections that took place from the Hillel school to various students homes so they could participate in our class during the seventh grade. That was quite advanced for that time, and it made a huge difference for the students that suffered serious injuries.
I also remember the memorial dedication that was placed in the daily chapel and our eighth-grade yearbook was dedicated to the memory of Spencer Jaffe.
There are no words of comfort that can take away the pain, except to know that in many ways that accident affected our childhood and has left an indelible imprint on the people we are today. More importantly we all ,in our own way ,mourn the loss of our old friends.
May their memories be a blessing for us all.
Barry Zisholtz (Atlanta)


I, too, lost my sister 44 years ago yesterday. I found this website for the first time and was prompted to visit the memorial to the seven children that were killed at the Hillel chapel.
I tried contacting one other person who posted here but she deleted my email
I don't want to push a painful issue. However, if you want to email me, please do.

Remembering the day

Another July 15th is here and I can still feel the rain falling on me in the field where the bus landed.I will never forget the day; will always be grateful for my life, and will always mourn the lives of those who passed away on that horrible afternoon.
Peter, every March 8th I think of Nancy with her beautiful smile...Wow, it's been 42 years!...Love, Missy

I survived the crash but just recently I lost my sister Ruthie

I was just a child of 13 and I don't believe I ever reached out to the families who lost loved ones on that day that I will never forget. I can only imagine how this day, unforgettable to those who lost loved ones, turned so many lives upside down forever. I am here now (finally) because it took the death of my sister Ruthie to realize how guilty I feel for hiding my pain and in particular the pain that is unimaginable, unfathomable (the parents and siblings of the victims).

My family sat shiva recently and on the very day I came home to begin this phase of our lives I saw the sister of Jonathan Elstein as the first visitor! A wake up call to be sure that shook me to my core! I also saw her at a Simcha (my nephew's Bar-Mitvah) a few weeks before my sister passed away and I immediately recognized her and we talked for a bit. This time though it was different. I asked her if I could hug her and she agreed, we embraced and both cried our eyes out.

It took the passing of my sister to open my heart fully and let tears fall where they may but mainly to reach out to those in pain. Now I am searching for Meryl Jaffe (the sister of Spencer Jaffe) since I recall my sister and her being best friends in grade school. Spencer and I were very good friends.

I remember getting on stage with Meryl, my sister and a few other friends in an effort to secure enough votes for Meryl to become the GO Store Representative. We sang a rewritten version of the song "My Beautiful Balloon". I don't remember many things from those days but for some reason that stood out.

My heart is now open, and so I send my love and warmth to everyone who ever suffered such a loss. May somehow these awful experiences make us react in the best way possible so that the deaths of our loved ones will never ever be in vein. For those who are able, may it inspire us to be something greater than what we had planned to be.

If anyone knows where Meryl is these days please send her my love.

Very best regards,
Avi Horowitz (

I stayed home.

Even though I was not on this bus, this is one of the defining events of my childhood, having decided late the night before not to go on this trip, since I was afraid I would be was an overnight trip that was, I believe to have included the Amish country. It would have been my first time away.
Not sure what made me google this today...cannot believe it is 40 years ago. I do, however, to this day find myself thinking about the kids who were killed, how their parents are, about the campers who came home (one of whom I stayed friends with for a while), and about the impact this had on me, my family, and my community.
Thanks for posting this. It was comforting to know that others remember this event as well.

Nancy Brother Replies

Yes Karen and Pam... You have both described Nancy Ann Jacobson with haunting clarity. Not only did I wind up with that Jerry Mahoney doll but Nancy left behind an autograph book, each page a different pastel shade of color, loaded with the kind loving and whimsical wishes of each of you. She left Franklin Elementary to attend the Ogden school. She played the flute and piano and her band teacher Mr. Orenstien's name comes to mind as well as the dashing Mr. Sloan back at Franklin.
One day while visiting my parents I happened to be muttering the Elton John/ Bernie Taupin song 'Levon' (He was born on a Christmas day when the New York Times said God is dead and the war's begun) when my mother said 'Remind me to show you a New York Times you'll never forget" and I knew instantly what she meant . . . She had saved the newspapers all these years. She sat me down with a box full of newsprint complete with pictures of the crash site, a studio portrait of the bus driver and even a picture of herself flashed by an opportunistic press photographer at the precise moment of announcement of Nancy's name called off of a list to the family members gathered at Hilel Country Day School in Lawrence. The box also contained Nancy's personal effects, among them a miniature nylon tote bag containing a set of jacks and the requisite rubber ball (One-Zees...Two-Zees...Three-Zees...etc) as well as a heartbreakingly small pair of sunglasses.
Well, I know she loved you all and I thank you so much for your remembrances.
P.S. I was born on a Christmas day 1962. (jacobsonp@

July 1970


My sister was Randee Lewis. I remember your sister very clearly. My folks are still alive and still live on Norman Way in Woodmere. My husband happen to come upon this site and saw the blog that had my sister's name in it. Then my 17 yr old son started scouring the blogs and comments. They both urged me to respond to as many as I could and so I am, until I prepare for Shabbos. My parents were NEVER the same and it was a challenging life for all of us in different ways. In some ways the horriffic incident brought us closer and in some ways further apart.

Blessings of peace to you and your parents

Seena (Lewis) Elbaum

RE: RIP Randee Lewis

This is Randee's sister, Seena. The story of how our family went on is too long complicated and impossible to convey here, but I would welcome the pleasure of speaking with you. I'm not placing who you are......but if we speak I'm sure you'll wake up the missing link. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let me know how to reach you , or you can call me with contact info and I'll call you.
Best Regards,
Seena (Lewis) Elbaum

Another friend of Nancy Jacobsen

This week I googled...1970 bus crash my son undid his seatbelt on the school ride home and the bus driver who was handling several misbehaving children drove the bus back to school. I picked up my son in the principal's office. I told him about a friend that had died in a school bus crash which prompted me to see if I could obtain any information on the internet. I, too, was a friend of Nancy Jacobsen and have never forgotten the ill-fated Allentown bus crash of the summer of 1970. I was at sleep away camp in Port Jervis, NY and parents visiting day apparently took place a few days following the accident. I had the lead in an original play and we rehearsed for the parents. My parents did not inform me of the horrific news but for the remainder of the summer bus trips were cancelled and all I knew was that there was a bus accident somewhere. When I returned home about 6 weeks later, my parents broke the news to me. I had not known anyone who had died...especially not a child...and still being a child I ran out of the room crying Nancy and I were friends in third grade having been in Miss Weissberg's class together at Franklin Elementary School.
I remember playing at her house as she had a Jerry Mahoney doll that we enjoyed pretending we were ventriliquists. I don't believe I saw too much of Nancy following third grade but I can see her as Pam Ellis describes on the steps by the side play yard at Franklin. Pam's description is so vivid to me that I too can imagine Nancy standing there smiling ...her teeth glistening upon her olive toned skin with her long dark straight hair.
I thought this a coincidence to see another posting just within the past 2 weeks about the crash and Nancy that I had to reply. Thanks Pam for your beautiful remembrance of Nancy. Karen

I remember Nancy and Randee

I lived down the block from Nancy on Fordham Lane and also attended Franklin Elementary School. I was 11 years old on July 15, 1970 when my mom told me about the accident. Another good friend of mine, Missy Sher, was in a body cast for 6 months from this accident and also lived on Fordham Lane.

I also remember Randee who attended Cong. Sons of Israel religious school with me.

Even 40 years after this accident, I always think about these very young girls and what a sad, sad loss this was. They may be gone but they aren't forgotten.

article | by Dr. Radut