Baker, CA Bus And Car Collision, Mar 1968
DESERT BUS-CAR CRASH KILLS 20.
Baker, San Bernardino Co. (UPI) -- Twenty persons were burned alive Thursday when a Las Vegas bound Greyhound bus was struck head on by what may have been a suicide car. Twelve persons survived.
"The driver missed several smaller vehicles before it struck the bus; it may have been a suicide," said LT. JIM PERKINS of the California Highway Patrol.
The car, driver by 39 year old MICHAEL BARRY, an unemployed cook, was traveling about 70 miles an hour on the wrong side of Interstate 15, a main artery linking Los Angeles and Las Vegas, when it crashed into the bus three miles east of here on a stretch called the Baker Grade.
It was the worst of many bloody accidents on the 18 mile climb from Baker at 960 feet to 4,000-foot Halloran Summit.
KENNETH L. BURKARDT, driver of the bus, suffered a broken leg. He told the CHP officers he had pulled into the left land to pass a car when suddenly he saw another car heading, directly toward him. He swerved the bus toward the dirt median strip but was unable to miss the 1964 car that was flattened in the crash like a pancake.
Both vehicles burst into flames, twisting and gutting the bus, its roof yawning open. Black smoke and fire was visible throughout the normally still, clear air of the valley in the Mojave Desert. A drizzling rain turned into a near downpour after the flames were quenched.
"My husband and I were driving by when it happened," said PATRICIA HURST, an expectant mother who lives in this desert town 45 miles west of the Nevada - California border.
"I heard people screaming and saw them inside the bus trying to get out and waving their arms. It was a nightmare," she said.
The flaming bus flipped over on its side in the sagebrush covered freeway median. The door and side windows were buried in the sand. Those who escaped were either ejected by the initial impact or climbed out the front windshield.
A marine sergeant, bleeding from the head, pulled two persons to safety and was attempting to rescue a third woman when the flames became so intense he was pulled away by firemen.
Volunteer firemen from Baker, Barstow and Hesperia rushed to the scene, some from as far as 90 miles. A physician driving past the scene stopped and administered first aid to survivors. One man became hysterical, screaming: "My wife and family are in there."
Coroner EDWARD P. DOYLE said it might be a week before he would be able to name all the dead. He said a seven man team of FBI investigators was to arrive here today from Washington to help with identifying the bodies, some of which were burned beyond recognition.
DOYLE positively identified the driver of the car as BARRY. The car was registered to a North Las Vegas, Nev., woman.
BEATRICE DABNEY, manager of a restaurant in Baker, said she saw BERRY get into the car involved in the crash and drive away 10 minutes before the holocaust.
BARRY was fired Thursday as a cook at the restaurant after being employed for eight days. MRS. DABNEY said he had been despondent before he was fired, apparently over a divorce.
WALTER TERRY, deputy coroner for San Bernardino County, said he would go through the wreckage again and attempt to recover items which might help identify the victims.
TERRY and some 40 men -- who sifted through the wreckage for more than five hours -- worked until after midnight removing the carred bodies, some intact and some dismembered. The bodies were wrapped in plastic sheets and loaded in panel trucks destined for mortuaries in Barstow.
The 12 survivors were treated at Barstow Community Hospital. None was injured critically.
The Modesto Bee And News Herald California 1968-03-08
Partial List Of Casualties.
PAULINE BELLE OZERAN, 29, North Hollywood.
ESTER A. DAVIS, 67, Los Angeles.
EDWIN A. STEVENS, 59, Whitefish, Mont.
CLARA ROSIE STEVENS, 61, his wife.
CELESTINE D. SEMANA, 57, Torrance, Calif.
WILLIAM C. NANCE, Maywood, Calif.
ARTHUR L. COLE, 73, Garden Grove, Calif.
MRS. CHRISTINA JONES, 53, Hawthorne, Calif.
MRS. ANNA LOUISA LEWIS, 65, Santa Barbara, Calif.
MRS. MARGARET BUNTIN OBEE, 50, Vancouver, B.C.
MRS. OBEE'S son, ALLEN, 24, Vancouver, B.C.
MICHAEL BARRY, 39, Baker, Calif. driver of the automobile.