New Smithville, PA Bus Crashes Through Guardrail, July 1970

7 CHILDREN ON EXCURSION KILLED IN BUS WRECK.

51 OTHERS INJURED IN PLUNGE.

Allentown, Pa. (UPI) -- A chartered bus carrying school children on a tour of the Pennsylvania Amish country skidded in a rainstorm and rolled over a 50-foot embankment Wednesday, pinning dead and injured in the wreckage.
Seven children were killed and 51 other persons on the bus were injured, police said.
The dead were identified as:
BONNIE EISENBERG, 437 Beach 123rd St., Belle Harbor, N.Y.
NANCY JACOBSON, 1071 Fordham Lane, Woodmere, N.Y.
RANDEE LEWIS, 568 Norman Way, Woodmere, N.Y.
RANDI PRESS, 486 Oxford Road, Cedarhurst, N.Y.
SPENCER JAFFE, 43 Lawrence Avenue, Lawrence, N.Y.
JOHATHAN ELSTEIN, 818 Cornaga Ave., Far Rockaway, N.Y.
LISA GERSTMAN, 43 Cloverdale Rd., Valley Stream, N.Y.
Loaded with children and counselors from the Hillel School, a private Jewish day school in Lawrence, N.Y., the bus skidded on a slight curve on rain-slick U.S. 22, 10 miles west of Allentown.
The bus ripped through guardrails, fell nose first down the hill, flipped over and landed against the stone foundation of an old vacant house, a state trooper said. The roof and the side of the bus were ripped open.
One of the children, DANIEL STEINBERG, 11, of Far Rockaway, N.Y., said the bus went into a spin, "rotating around me."
"It went side to side down the hill," he said, "and when it stopped I looked and saw a little hole to the left of me, a foot wide, and I and about six others crawled through the hole."
Some of the occupants were thrown from the bus and about six persons were pinned beneath it. Others were trapped inside.
"It was a mess," said State Trooper ROBERT CLARSON, one of the first persons at the crash scene. "There were children all over -- in the embankment, in the grass, in the bus."
"They were crying and very upset. Most of them appeared to be in shock."
A dozen motorists and truck drivers stopped to administer first aid, he said. "They tried to comfort the children, to stop the bleeding with towels and blankets."
Anguished parents gathered at the plush school in Lawrence, a wealthy New York City suburb, after they were told about the crash. Many of them just wandered aimlessly through the corridors.
Some set out in cars or on a small commuter airlines flight to get to Allentown. Other parents obtained reservations on two commercial airline flights.
School officials told the parents they would be notified when word of their children was received from Allentown. At least five of the injured were counselors, a spokesman said.
Some of the truckers who stopped at the crash scene brought hydraulic jacks and helped life the wrecked but with cables. Rescue crews then combed through the rubble. Nine ambulances took the dead and injured away.

The Post-Standard Syracuse New York 1970-07-16

Comments

Thank you.

I just became aware of this site. It warmed my heart to read what you wrote, Dov. Very best regards.

Almost 47 years

I couldn't have said it better. Thanks, Barry. I remember Spencer all the time.

47 years

Almost 47 years later we still find a way to get together and remember our friends who died in this tragedy. I still think about Spencer, I think of his parents, I think of the great kid he was and the great life he would have lived. I know he would have gone far. Spencer's mother and my mother were friends and led our Cub Scouts den. I remember their house in Lawrence, I remember Barry who wrote a note here. I remember that life from long ago, when we were kids growing up into the real world. For many of us it was our first real trauma, something over which you do not get.
Best wishes to all, Spencer's family and friends.
Dov (Tel-Aviv)

Spencer Jaffe

It is amazing to see how after almost 47 years we still find a way to get together and remember our friends who died in this tragedy.
I still think about Spencer, I think of his parents, I think of the great kid he was and the great life he would have lived. I know he would have gone far.
Spencer's mother and my mother were friends and led our Cub Scouts den. I remember their house in Lawrence, I remember Barry who wrote a note here.
I remember that life from long ago, when we were kids growing up into the real world.
For many of us it was our first real trauma, something over which you do not get.
Best wishes to all, Spencer's family and friends.
Dov (Tel-Aviv)

Randee Lewis

i live down the street from Randee and her family. i was on her camp bus. I did not go away with them. i remember my brother Ed calling my mom asking if i was on the bus with them My mom Said no.I knew the Lewis family for a long time. This should never happen RIP to the child that die in the boss.

Thanks

Debbie Siskin

I find it quite amazing that

I find it quite amazing that even though it has been 44 years since this tragic accident, the trauma of all of us still remains.
I was very friendly with Spencer Jaffe, and I recall just before leaving to Israel for the summer he begged me to stay home and attend Hillel daycamp.
I was already registered for the Victor Geller Camp Yaron program otherwise I could've very well been on that bus.
I did not find out about the accident until the end of July when I visited a friend who had made aliyah.
Even then the details were not disclosed until I came home.
I remember the audio connections that took place from the Hillel school to various students homes so they could participate in our class during the seventh grade. That was quite advanced for that time, and it made a huge difference for the students that suffered serious injuries.
I also remember the memorial dedication that was placed in the daily chapel and our eighth-grade yearbook was dedicated to the memory of Spencer Jaffe.
There are no words of comfort that can take away the pain, except to know that in many ways that accident affected our childhood and has left an indelible imprint on the people we are today. More importantly we all ,in our own way ,mourn the loss of our old friends.
May their memories be a blessing for us all.
Barry Zisholtz (Atlanta)

Nancy

Peter,
I, too, lost my sister 44 years ago yesterday. I found this website for the first time and was prompted to visit the memorial to the seven children that were killed at the Hillel chapel.
I tried contacting one other person who posted here but she deleted my email
I don't want to push a painful issue. However, if you want to email me, please do.
Sincerely,
Howard

Remembering the day

Another July 15th is here and I can still feel the rain falling on me in the field where the bus landed.I will never forget the day; will always be grateful for my life, and will always mourn the lives of those who passed away on that horrible afternoon.
Peter, every March 8th I think of Nancy with her beautiful smile...Wow, it's been 42 years!...Love, Missy

I survived the crash but just recently I lost my sister Ruthie

I was just a child of 13 and I don't believe I ever reached out to the families who lost loved ones on that day that I will never forget. I can only imagine how this day, unforgettable to those who lost loved ones, turned so many lives upside down forever. I am here now (finally) because it took the death of my sister Ruthie to realize how guilty I feel for hiding my pain and in particular the pain that is unimaginable, unfathomable (the parents and siblings of the victims).

My family sat shiva recently and on the very day I came home to begin this phase of our lives I saw the sister of Jonathan Elstein as the first visitor! A wake up call to be sure that shook me to my core! I also saw her at a Simcha (my nephew's Bar-Mitvah) a few weeks before my sister passed away and I immediately recognized her and we talked for a bit. This time though it was different. I asked her if I could hug her and she agreed, we embraced and both cried our eyes out.

It took the passing of my sister to open my heart fully and let tears fall where they may but mainly to reach out to those in pain. Now I am searching for Meryl Jaffe (the sister of Spencer Jaffe) since I recall my sister and her being best friends in grade school. Spencer and I were very good friends.

I remember getting on stage with Meryl, my sister and a few other friends in an effort to secure enough votes for Meryl to become the GO Store Representative. We sang a rewritten version of the song "My Beautiful Balloon". I don't remember many things from those days but for some reason that stood out.

My heart is now open, and so I send my love and warmth to everyone who ever suffered such a loss. May somehow these awful experiences make us react in the best way possible so that the deaths of our loved ones will never ever be in vein. For those who are able, may it inspire us to be something greater than what we had planned to be.

If anyone knows where Meryl is these days please send her my love.

Very best regards,
Avi Horowitz ([email protected])

I stayed home.

Even though I was not on this bus, this is one of the defining events of my childhood, having decided late the night before not to go on this trip, since I was afraid I would be homesick...it was an overnight trip that was, I believe to have included the Amish country. It would have been my first time away.
Not sure what made me google this today...cannot believe it is 40 years ago. I do, however, to this day find myself thinking about the kids who were killed, how their parents are, about the campers who came home (one of whom I stayed friends with for a while), and about the impact this had on me, my family, and my community.
Thanks for posting this. It was comforting to know that others remember this event as well.