Soledad, CA Fire In Work Bus Kills 12, Jun 1958


Soledad, Calif., (UPI) - Twelve Mexican nationals were burned to death and 19 others were hospitalized today when they were trapped in the back of a makeshift bus that caught fire as it took them to work from a farm labor camp.
The fire apparently broke out when a can of gasoline in the front of the bus overturned and sloshed into the back where 50 Mexicans were riding. The gasoline was apparently ignited by a match or a cigarette and flames roared through the wood and metal top to a flatbed truck, had only two exits at the rear and both were barred by safety chains. There were benches on both sides of the truck bed and in the middle.
A passerby, Trino Romo, said he was able to get the chain off one exit but could not undo the other chain. He said those that died were trapped in that side of the bus behind the chain.
"I could hear the men praying in Spanish as I struggled with the chains," Romo said.
Mrs. Audrey Burns, who lived nearby, said she was awakened by the screams of the men and said she looked out to see the truck covered with smoke. It then burst into flames.
The accident took place within the Soledad city limits and the Soledad Fire Department extinguished the blaze seven minutes after it arrived. However, it took more than two hours to get the charred bodies out of the bus. Immediate identification was impossible.

Albany Democrat-Herald Oregon 1958-06-17