Natural Bridge, VA Bus Crashes In Rain, June 1936
FIVE KILLED 24 HURT IN BUS CRASH.
TRAGEDY ON VALLEY PIKE DUE TO RAIN.
NATURAL BRIDGE SCENE OF DISASTER DURING NIGHT - HEAVILY CROWDED BUS SKIDS OFF ROAD AND ALMOST TOPPLES OVER PRECIPICE - MANY PINNED FOR HOURS BELOW WRECKAGE - DRIVER ONE OF VICTIMS SEEING BUS GOING OVER EDGE HEADS IT FOR BANK WHERE IT IS TELESCOPED - INJURED AT LEXINGTON AND AT NATURAL BRIDGE HOTEL - MARTINSVILLE MAN AMONG INJURED.
Natural Bridge, Va., July 1 - (AP) - Five persons were killed and 24 injured, seven seriously, in the crash about midnight of a passenger bus at the brink of the 215-foot gorge of the famous Natural Bridge of Virginia.
The heavy bus skidded as it approached the bridge in a rainstorm. Driver J. J. OLDERSON, passengers said, turned the wheel hard to plunge through a guard rail and into a bank to avoid certain death for all. The bus rolled over at least once. OLDERSON and four others being killed as the top was forced down on them.
All except 8 of the 32 passengers on the bus, Atlantic Greyhound, were injured. Hospitals said only seven, however, suffered serious hurts.
The first of the rescuers said passengers believed OLDERSON deliberately swerved the bus through the guard rail to avoid a plunge over the precipice, but State Officer L. A. Brugh said there were tire marks which indicated he may have attempted to pull the skidding vehicle back on the highway.
Most of the passengers were asleep at the time of the accident, which occurred too quickly "to get scared" according to O. B. RING, a passenger.
The front of the bus was telescoped. The top was smashed down over the occupants, many of whom were pinned in their seats. The crushed top, however, ballooned up at the rear, saving those in the back from more serious injury or death.
HORACE HUDGINS of Christiansburg, Va., a passenger who was only slightly hurt, crawled out and ran through the storm to summon help.
A rescue party sent seven of the injured to a hospital at Lexington, Va., and took the remainder to an emergency hospital hurriedly established in the hotel at this resort community.
Bodies of the dead were taken to Roanoke, 34 miles to the south, after wreckers righted the overturned bus.
The vehicle, operated by the Atlantic Greyhound Line, was traveling north from Roanoke through the Valley of Virginia. It had left Roanoke last night at 10:20 o'clock eastern standard time.
Three of the passengers were drivers for the Southeastern Greyhound Lines, en route to Philadelphia to return new equipment to Birmingham, Ala.
One of them, J. P. HAMILTON, of Birmingham, was killed. The other two, C. F. WORRELL and CLYDE CARTER, escaped injury. WORRELL was the only person sitting near the front who was not killed.
O. B. RING of Roanoke and THOMAS WRIGHT of Hollins, Va., said they crawled out of windows after the crash. RING was injured.
The Natural Bridge, mecca for visitors and described as one of the "Wonders of the World," is the remains of the roof of a huge cave through which Cedar Creek once flowed.
A highway, 90 feet long and from 50 to 150 feet wide spans it. The road - the valley turnpike, U.S. Route No. 11 - is one of the chief north and south arteries of traffic through Virginia.
On one side of the bridge are carved into the rock the initials "G.W." which tradition says were cut there by the youthful George Washington when surveying the land.
Physicians said one unidentified white woman, who was dressed in yellow and was about 38 or 40 years old, died of shock, her body showed no marks of injuries.
The bus was approaching the span of rock which carries the highway across the 215-foot gorge in a heavy rainstorm.
Observers at the wreck scene said the driver appeared to have headed the bus into the bank to miss the precipice. The bus rolled over several times, smashing in the top upon those in front seats, and came to a rest against a large signboard.