Garfield, CO Gunnison Football Team Bus Crash, Sept 1971

Gunnison CO Football Team Bus Crash, Sept 1971 Gunnison CO Football Team Bus Crash, Sept 1971

School Grid Team Bus Flips; 9 Killed

GARFIELD, Colo., Sept 11 -- A school bus carrying a Gunnison, Colo., high school football team, careened down 11,312 Monarch Pass in the Colorado Rockies today, killing eight of the junior varsity players and their coach. Twenty-two were injured.

The bus apparently lost its brakes at the top of the pass and the driver almost made it down safely, but at the bottom he swerved to avoid another vehicle and overturned.

There were 47 persons on the bus, including the driver, Royce Mustain of Gunnison. Ten of the injured were taken to nearby Salida and 12 were flown by helicopter to St. Luke's Hospital in Denver. Mustain underwent surgery in Denver and was in intensive care.

4 Dead at Scene
Four of those killed were dead at the scene of the crash. Two others died at Salida, two were pronounced dead on arrival at St. Luke's and another died in an emergency room at the Denver hospital.

The bus, which Gunnison Supt. James R. Raine said was new, was carrying the junior varsity players and coaches to a football game against the Salida junior varsity. It was to have been their first football game this season. All members of the team were in the 9th or 10th grade.

Cliff Watson, a state highway patrolman who witnessed the crash, said it appeared the brakes failed on the bus near the summit of the pass, 115 miles southwest of Denver.

Nearly to the Bottom
The driver, Watson said, steered the bus down curving U. S. Hwy. 50. He was nearly to the bottom when he swerved to avoid hitting a car and a semitracter truck. He guided the bus across a small parking lot at Garfield where it rolled one and a half times.

One of the coaches who survived, Larry Helzer, 28, said:

"The bus driver was really trying to stop. He was standing and actually pulling against the steering wheel and pressing on the brakes as hard as he could.

"I was trying to work the emergency brake but that wasn't working. Then a couple of us sat down on the floor, turned around and had the kids sit down and hold on as hard as they could."

The victims of the accident were identified as Leon Floyd, a coach; and players Ted Maw, Mark Broadwater, William Miles, Kent Cooper, Pat Graham, Tim Dutton, Brad Hall and Mike Pasquale.

Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL 12 Sept 1971