Spring City, TN Train - Bus Wreck, Aug 1955
10 KILLED IN TRAIN-BUS CRASH
School Bus Demolished; 30 Injured
SPRING CITY, Tenn., Aug. 22 (AP) -- A 100-car freight train demolished a school bus loaded with about 40 children here today, killing at least 10 of them and injuring all the others.
The state-highway patrol at Nashville said its reports had 17 definitely killed, but this figure could not be confirmed from the several hospitals and funeral homes involved.
The Southern Railway train struck the bus broadside, scattering dead and injured grammar school children for 10 car-lengths along the track.
The accident happened just off the main street of this town of less than 2,000 population, two blocks from the elementary school the children had just left.
As in most other rural Tennessee areas, Spring City schools start classes in mid-August to allow a harvest-time recess. The town is near an elbow of the Tennessee River between Knoxville and Chattanooga.
Every available ambulance and all state highway patrol cars for miles around were dispatched here immediately. The children, all white, and ranging in age from 6 to 12, were taken to hospitals here and at nearby Dayton, Rockwood, Chattanooga and Crossville.
Identification of the children was a slow process, officers said, with 10 of the dead identified three hours after the mid-afternoon crash.
Bus driver RAYMOND MOORE, who was treated for head injuries, said four parked cars obstructed his view of the oncoming train.
"I stopped at the crossing," MOORE said, "but didn't see the train. When I started across the tracks, I saw it and heard the engineer blowing his whistle."
"I prayed I would make it but I knew I was too late."
Police Chief RAYMOND POWERS said he heard the crash, looked up and saw a "puff of smoke."
"When the smoke cleared, people began picking up bodies of the children and loading them into cars and ambulances," he said.
BILL BARTON said he and other bystanders saw the crash was imminent and began shouting to the bus driver:
"Go on, go on."
PAUL GILLES, engineer of the train estimated the train's speed at 45 miles an hour at the time of the accident.
"This is one of those things you read about, but don't believe will happen," said DENTON SMITH, principal of the Spring City school. "It is the worst thing that's ever happened here."
At Knoxville, Gov. FRANK CLEMENT said he had ordered the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the State Education Commissioner's office to investigate the mishap.
"We must leave no stone unturned in finding out the cause of this tragedy so that we can do all in our power to prevent a recurrence of such a disaster," the governor declared.
"All Tennesseans will be saddened at the report of this tragedy."
CLEMENT said he would visit the injured children and parents of those killed sometime tomorrow.
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