Princeton, CA Auto Plunges Off Ferry Boat, Aug 1958
8 FROM ONE FAMILY DROWN IN AUTO PLUNGE.
DROVE OFF FERRY BOAT.
Princeton, Calif. (AP) - A station wagon with faulty brakes carried 10 members of a Mexican fruit picker's family off the end of a ferry boat. Eight of them drowned in the Sacramento River, trapped in the car upside down.
FORTINO AGUILAR, 38;
his wife, CHRISTINA, 32;
5 of their 6 children - MARGARITA, 15; MARIA, 13; CHRISTINA, 6; FORTINO, JR., 4; and PEPE, 3;
and MRS. AGUILAR'S mother MRS. SANTOS GARCIA, 50.
Survivors of the tragic accident are the AGUILARS' sixth child, MICHAEL "MICKEY" AGUILAR, 2, and a 14-year-old daughter of MRS. GARCIA, ANTONIA. They floated to the surface and were pulled into a small boat by a quick-thinking ferry boatman.
First reports said that an 11th occupant of the car also floated to the surface and was swept away in the current. Witnesses say they saw a bobbing head near those of little MICKEY and ANTONIA. Search was continuing Sunday, but officers said they believed the third object was a floating log.
Duke Dryant, ferryman on duty, said the AGUILAR car was the first to roll down the incline aboard the ferry. He saw that it was coasting forward without slowing.
"I hollered 'jump! jump!' but I guess they couldn't understand me," he related afterwards.
"The little kids in the car were laughing and playing but the teenagers were screaming in fright as the car went through the safety chain and over the edge."
The car floated nearly 50 feet before the waters closed over it, stilling the screams.
Also alive is Mrs. Garcia's husband, Carlos Garcia, 62, Mexican-born resident of Redondo Beach, Calif. He didn't accompany the rest of the family on the outing. He told Coroner Howard Moore through an interpreter he stayed in Princeton "to take a nap."
Looking old and broken, he identified the row of bodies at the morgue - his wife, his daughters, a son-in-law and 5 grandchildren. He said he believed all were accounted for, counting little MICKEY and his own daughter
"TONI" in the hospital. The Oregon and California clans had met in this area for a "big reunion," he said.
Skindivers recovered the 8 bodies from the car.
Before that, ferry boatman Louis Lehmkuhl had rescued the 2 survivors.
Lehmkuhl had just gone off duty as ferry boat operator when the car hit the water. He seized a small boat on shore and headed to a point 200 feet downstream to haul out ANTONIA and little MICHAEL.
ANTONIA and 2-year-old MICHAEL were treated for shock and immersion at Memorial Hospital in Colusa, 18 miles south of Princeton. The ferry crosses the river about 50 miles north of the California capital of Sacramento.
The Lincoln Star Nebraska 1958-08-04