Salem, IL Bus Crashes Into Bridge, Mar 1937
18 ARE KILLED AS BUS RAMS BRIDGE, BURNS.
ONE OF WORST DISASTERS IN MOTOR TRANSPORTATION HISTORY OCCURS AT SALEM, ILL.
VICTIMS WERE MEMBERS OF ROLLER-SKATING UNIT.
TIRE BLOWOUT IS BLAMED; ONLY FIVE SURVIVE; TWO MAY DIE.
(By Associated Press)
Salem, Ill., March 24. -- A tire blowout hurled a private bus against a concrete bridge abutment and turned it into a blazing wreck in which 18 persons, including a 4 year old girl, were killed today.
Only five persons survived one of the worst disasters in the history of motor bus transportation, and two of them were so seriously injured they may die.
The bus, loaded with a professional roller-skating troupe, enroute from St. Louis to Cincinnati, O., was going down a slight grade when its right front tire blew out about 50 feet from the bridge on U.S. highway No. 50, two miles west of here.
THe heavy machine careened crazily, dug into the soft shoulder at the highway and rammed into the bridge abutment with terrific force. Hurled on its side, the bus burst into flames when its gasoline tank was smashed.
"The survivors said the bus appeared to explode and then there was fire all over and all were caught in it," reported Dr. H. L. Logan, of the Salem Community hospital, where the injured were taken.
"I can still hear my pals screams of terror," DON FLANNERY, 18, of Kansas City, a professional roller-skater, told the Chicago American over long-distance telephone. "They were trapped in a regular mass of fire. The boys as well as the girls were hysterical and all fought like mad to get out."
FLANNERY managed to crawl out of a bus window but he suffered first degree burns when he attempted to rescue MISS RUTH HILL of Kansas City, his fiancee.
At the hospital, attendants quoted him as saying:
"She called to me twice. I finally found her. I tried to pull her out, but she was pinned and I couldn't move her."
He wept as he asked, "I did the best I could for her, didn't I?"
DICK THOMAS of Chicago, the driver; his bride, MRS. EMILY THOMAS, 19, also of Chicago; JOHN L. (SCHOOLBOY) CREEKMORE, 17, of Miami, Fla., and TED MULLEN, 35, of Portland, Ore., also escaped from the flaming bus.
Dr. Logan said MRS. THOMAS and MULLEN had slight chances to live.
The flames, which mounted 40 feet in the air, turned the bus into a funeral pyre for those trapped in it when it crashed and overturned. The bus smoldered more than an hour after the accident.
Thirteen bodies taken from its hot, twisted wreckage were sent to the McMackin funeral home at Salem. Five others were taken to the Liston-Beery mortuary at nearby Patoka, Ill.
Omar McMackin, mayor of Salem and owner of the undertaking establishment, said the bodies were "burnt to a crisp" and identification would be "almost impossible," except through dental work.
McMackin reported the number of bodies had been 'misconducted' in the excitement accompanying the crash, leading to the erroneous announcement by Gerald Galbreath, an employe, that 14 dead had been brought to Salem.
"Compilation in St. Louis of a list of passengers, which carried the names of both 'JERRY WALLERS' and 'JERRY HICKSON' or NICKSON," supported the incorrect death toll until late tonight, when a recheck showed both were the same person. An official at a roller-skating derby being conducted in St. Louis explained the dead man used both names.
The body of the child was so badly burned determination of its sex was difficult, an employe at the mortuary reported. At St. Louis, LEO SELTZER, promoter who organized the troupe, said the child was the daughter of MRS. ERMA CALDWELL, 34, of Chicago, dietician for the skaters.
In addition to MRS. CALDWELL and MISS HILL, four other women were killed in the accident. They were:
CAROLYN BARTON, 31, Denver, a registered nurse.
LIBBY HOOVER, 19, Kansas City.
LOUISE BROWER, 21, Cincinnati.
MARY "MILLIE" COOPER, 19, Villa Park, Ill.
John Frankboner, the first man to arrive at the scene, said there was a "deathly quiet, except for the crackling of the flames," when he reached the burning bus.
"I found one man dead, lying just off the edge of the highway slab," Frankboner said. "His clothing was all burned off. Ten feet away I found the body of a small child. Both of its legs and arms were burned off ....," as he voice broke into tears.
None of the dead has been identified. The passenger list as given out by SEITZER listed, the following as also having been on the bus:
JOE KLEATS, 36, Indianapolis.
JACK ISRAEL, 24, Kansas City.
BUS GESSER, 21, Covington, Ky.
TONY MARZANO, 21, Chicago.
NICK KELSON, Athens, Greece.
Charleston Gazette West Virginia 1937-03-25
Listing of the casualties and the two survivors of this tragic accident:
DICK THOMAS, 24, the driver.
DON FLANNERY, 18.
FRANK VINING, 26.
JOHN BRITTON, 26.
ERMA CALDWELL, 34.
CAROL ANN CALDWELL, 4.
JOE KLEATS, 36.
JACK ISRAEL, 24.
MARY "MILLIE" COOPER, 19.
BUS GESSER, 21.
LOUISE BROWER, 21.
TONY MARZANO, 21.
RUTH HILL, 19.
NICK KELSON, age not known.
LIBBY HOOVER, 19.
CAROLYN BARTON, 31.
JERRY HICKSON, 27.
DR. HENRY SALMON, 27.
KAY WILSON, 25.
WILLIAM ELLISON, age not known.
TED MULLEN, 35, died in hospital.
EMILY THOMAS, 19, died in hospital.
JOHN "SCHOOLBOY" CREEKMORE, 17, died in hospital one month later.