San Bernardino, CA Motor Home Burns On I-15, June 1981

OLD BUS ERUPTS, 10 DIE.

San Bernardino, Calif. (AP) - A fire that trapped and killed 10 people in a 35-year-old bus as it rumbled toward a family reunion started when a propane tank blew up, authorities believe.
Seventeen other people were injured Friday leaping from windows of the flaming bus as it rolled backward down a mountain road. The bus crashed into a truck, which hit a station wagon carrying five people.
Aboard the bus were 25 people - all but one of them related - on their way to a Fourth of July family reunion in Decatur, Ala. They were to have stopped in Kansas City, Mo., to pick up more relatives.
The one unrelated rider on the bus was a child being taken to visit his grandmother in Missouri, officials said.
The bus was on Interstate 15 on the Cajon Pass when it began smoking and burst into flames as the driver pulled onto the shoulder of the eight-lane mountain road. The bus, built in 1946 and later converted into a motor home, began rolling backward and hit the truck as screaming passengers kicked out windows and tried to jump to safety.
"I was sitting in the back of the bus listening to music, when all of the sudden there was a loud noise," said KIMBERLY GARRETT, 16, of Riverside, Calif. "I turned around and there was fire everywhere except in the back of the bus. Everybody scattered, and I started banging on a window until it popped out. Then I jumped."
Robert Drake of Loma Linda, who was driving his car not far behind the bus said, "The bus was engulfed in flames almost instantly. I saw one man manage to get out the back window, but there were many still inside screaming and crying."
"Those who remained behind were trapped in the bus and started throwing children and women out of the windows," said California Highway Patrol officer William Snell.
Patrol investigators believe the inferno was touched off by gas from a propane tank, spokeswoman Barbara Flick said. She said it would be two to three weeks before authorities can determine the cause.
Snell said the bus originally had a rear emergency exit, but it was barricaded when the vehicle was converted into a motor home.
The intensity of the flames sent streams of molten metal running along the highway and blackened asphalt for a quarter of a mile.
"It took about two hours before the bus cooled down enough for us to get inside," said San Bernardino County Coroner Harvey Castro.
"Once we got inside, we found six children and four adults. They appeared to have been huddled toward the rear of the bus."
The dead were identified as:
LEKEITH HILL, 1.
KILA JACKSON, 3.
JACKIE JACKSON, 4.
KETO JACKSON, 5.
LORI ROBINSON, 18.
CLINT ROBINSON, 22.
PAULINE ROBINSON, 39.
OCRATES DREDD, 40.
IWILLA WISEMAN, 72, all of Los Angeles.
and SCOTTIE LINDSEY, 5, of Palos Verdes, Calif.
The July 4-6 reunion at the home of Mrs. Lois Elliott Rogers at Flint City, near Decatur in north-central Alabama, was expected to draw about 100 people, a family spokesman in Alabama said.

Gettysburg Times Pennsylvania 1981-06-27