Uno, AR Bus Crash Kills Nine, Mar 1983


Uno, Ark. (AP) - Four high school students and five teachers were killed Friday when their convention-bound bus missed a curving intersection at a rural crossroads and overturned in a soybean field shortly before dawn.
Of the seven teachers and 31 students which the Jonesboro School District said were aboard, 29 were injured. Fourteen were hospitalized including four seriously injured who were flown by helicopter to hospitals in Memphis, Tenn., about 85 miles to the east, and Little Rock, about 80 miles to the southwest.
Among the students killed was MYRA TILLMAN, a Jonesboro High School student. Friday was her 18th birthday.
Eight members of a National Transportation Safety Board investigating team headed by chairman Jim Burnett, originally of Clinton, Ark., flew to Jonesboro on Friday.
At an airport news conference, Burnett said it was the most serious wreck involving students on a school outing since 1976, when 29 children were killed in a crash in California. He declined comment on Friday's accident and said a report would not be issued for six months.
Area residents said crashes on the road are common and other buses have slid off the road. A state police officer said he considered the road adequately marked and safe.
The students and their instructors had left Jonesboro in the northeastern part of the state shortly after 5 a.m.; many of them were asleep 45 minutes later when the bus, driven by DONALD ISHMAEL, a 44-year-old building trades instructor, skidded off Arkansas 214 as it curves into Arkansas 18 in Poinsett County.
The yellow bus, officials said, went into a ditch, back up on the pavement and down in a second ditch, overturning in a fallow soybean field.
The bus was bound for Little Rock, the state capital, for an annual weekend convention of the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America. By Friday afternoon, 600 people had arrived at the Excelsior Hotel for the convention and skills competition.
Farmer James Kinard, 44, who operates a country grocery at the intersection and heard the wreck, said he found the bus upside down. The top was crushed in, mostly on the front half. It was caved into the point that they could not escape.
The county coroner's office identified the dead as: ISHMAEL, the driver, of Jonesboro; drafting teacher EUGENE BLABO, 48, of rural Paragould; appliance repair instructor DONALD SLOAS, 36, of rural Harrisburg; printing and graphics teacher LLOYD MEHARG, 35, of Jonesboro; auto mechanics instructor RAY DEWITT, 49, of rural Jonesboro; and TILLMAN; PHYLLIS POTTER, 18; RHONDA WHITE, 16; and TRACY COLEMAN, 18, all of rural Jonesboro.

News-Press Fort Myers Florida 1983-03-26