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
Researched and Transcribed by Stu Beitler. Thank you, Stu!