Isleta Crossing, NM Bus and Train Collision Kills 19, Apr 1930



One of Bodies Is Known to Be That of MRS. ELLIS HUFF, But Husband, Injured and Shocked by His Loss, Was Unable Friday to Stand the Strain of Visiting the Morgue for Identification; Twelve Others Still Unknown.

The toll of the Isleta grade crossing disaster, in which a loaded Pickwick-Greyhound bus was demolished by Santa Fe mail train No. 7 Friday morning, was placed at nineteen dead and ten injured Friday night after a check of Albuquerque hospitals and morgues.
Only seven of the bodies had been identified late Friday night, and most of the others were so badly mangled and burned that it is doubtful if any identification can ever be made. Of the twelve dead at the Strong mortuary and the seven at the Blakemore-Exeter mortuary, three at each place had been positively identified. Twenty-nine persons were believed to be on the bus.
The inquest into the crash was called for 10 o'clock Monday morning by District Attorney EUGENE LUJAN, to allow time for further identification of victims. Assistant District Attorney M. J. McGUINNESS was assigned to the investigation. The inquest will be held in the courthouse here, it was said, and the justice of peace for the Isleta area will be brought to the city if necessary.
Crash Is Heard.
The quiet reigning over the sunny fields about the age-old Indian pueblo of Isleta, 12 miles south of Albuquerque, was suddenly shattered by the hoarse screaming of a locomotive whistle and a thundering crash as Santa Fe train No. 7, racing west with its cargo of mail, ripped into the eastbound motor coach. The collision occured at 8:27 a.m.
Indians tilling the soil nearby looked up to see the locomotive enveloped in a sheet of flame as it ground along the rails to a stop some 500 yards away.
A moment before, the low, heavy bus had been speeding over the highway, on its journey from Los Angeles to Denver, with the driver striving to make up an hour's time lost of muddy roads encountered after leaving Flagstaff, Ariz. Passengers were chatting, gazing through the windows, one was playing solitaire, a few were preparing for the scheduled arrival in Albuquerque a few minutes later.
As they approached the Santa Fe tracks a short distance north of the pueblo, the driver slowed down, then incerased the speed. A moment later a woman screamed; the bus lurched crazily down the track, doomed passengers blanched at the sight of a locomotive hurtling toward them, and the stunning impact came.
Gasoline Explodes.
In a twinkling, the luxurious coach was a mass of wreckage twisted about the front of the railroad engine. Simultaneously with the collision, came a terrific blast as gasoline tanks exploded, adding fire to the horror. Bodies of the bus passengers were hurtled through the air, clothes ablaze, or dragged along in the wreckage and distributed along the right-of-way with debris of the coach. One or two were pinned in the chassis, which were carried along under the cowcatcher of the engine until the screaching breaks brought it to a halt. The bodies were extracated with difficulty.
Thd body of the bus had been smashed into pieces. Outside of the wheels and miscellaneous pieces strewn near the crossing, the only thing left was the chassis pulled from under the engine wheels 500 yards away.
F. D. WILLIAMS, the driver, apparently failed to see the onrushing train until too late, the few surviving passengers asserted. He looked to his left, where the track was clear, and shot the bus forward before turning his glance to the right, where the train was to be soon.
Across the Rails.
The coach was directly across the rails when struck, investigators declared after an inspecton of the debris alongside the rails and of the chassis itself. The front wheels and radiator were down on one side of the railway embankment and the rear wheels, bumber and awning on the other side of the tracks. The heavy steel frame was considerably warped near the front, indicating that the locomotive had hit the bus just behind the motor and opposite the driver's seat.
That the train was not wrecked was considered miraculous by railroad officials, after they discovered that the front wheels of the locomotive had been derailed by the bus frame as it was shoved along. The ties were torn up considerably where the crash occurred, and the chassis continued to damage the roadbed until the train halted.
The train crew and passengers, hurrying back were met with a gruesome sight. Scattered about were numerous bodies, mangled or with clothing still ablaze from the blazing gasoline which had enveloped everything. One body severed at the trunk, lay across the rails and the figure of a man with his forehead off was a short distance down the tracks. Moans of the dying and injured were heart-rending to eye-witnesses. Baggage strewn about also was burning.
Calls for ambulances and doctors flashed into the city from various sources. Half a dozen ambulances were rushed from the Strong, French, Blakemore-Exter and Garcia and Sons mortuaries.
Many Horrified.
While a heroic few went about aiding the dying, many onlookers were said to have stood by, perhaps too horrified to act. Others, insisting on walking among the bodies and debris, interfered with first aid measures. Deputies were forced to divert their attention to keeping souvenir seekers away, it was reported.
The train was held where it stopped for several hours, pending investigation by the coroner's jury hastily empanelled. When W. C. REID, Santa Fe attorney, protested to Sheriff HUBBELL that the railroad schedule would be seriously impaired, the latter refused to allow the train to move until a thorough search had been made underneath for bodies.
The coroner's jury was made up of six farmers. Justice CHARLES KITT, who had come out from Albuquerque, was requested to direct the proceedings because the local justice could not be reached. After the jury viewed the scene it was dismissed until further call.
Seven Identified Dead.
The three victims at the Blakemore-Exeter morgues are E. D. WILLIAMS, the driver, recognized by his uniform, R. C. STEVENS of Kankakee, Ill., identified from a card case on his person and POTACLO TORTELETO, Santo Domingo Indian, identified by a group of six other Indians who came from the pueblo Friday afternoon. The four others at the morgue will be difficult to identify because of damaged features, except to a young man whose face was not injured, two women and a man make the remaining there. One of the women is very young and the other is older with two gold bracelets still on her tangled wrist.
At Strong's mortuary, identification has been made of 8 year old KENNETH HUFF, WILLIAM MICKLE of Santa Monica, Calif, and ROLAND ANDERSON of Merrill, Iowa. Five women, two men and two babies are unrecognized.
Ont of the women is known to be MRS. HUFF mother of the boy, but identification waits until the prostrated husband, one of the few survivors can be brought to the undertaker on Sunday.
One of the other women was battered beyond recognition.

Known Dead:
MRS. ELLIS HUFF, Los Angeles, formerly of Oklahoma City.
KENNETH HUFF, 8 years old, her son, Los Angeles.
Corporal ROLAND ANDERSON, Merrill, Iowa.
F. D. WILLIAMS, 218 1/2 West Gold avenue, bus driver, Albuquerque.
POTACLO TORTELETO, Indian, San Domingo.
R. C. STEVENS, Kankakee, Ill.
WILLIAM MICKLE, Santa Monica, Calif.
Probable Dead:
(Identification made from personal letters and effects.)
MISS CARTULA M. MAURER, Huntington Park, Calif.
THELMA LUFT, Denver, Colo., or Los Angeles.
T. F. FEELEY, Hollywood, Calif.
C. E. MALLORY, address unknown.
ORIA BARBER, address unknown.
Two Unidentified Babies.
On Unidentified Indian.
F. A. WICKER, 3606 Walnut street, Century City, Calif., possible internal injuries, lacerations on head and body and concussion of the brain.
CONRAD HEUVERS, 28, chef, 407 West Twenty-third street, Los Angeles, lacerations on scalp, body bruised and contusions on one leg.
HOMER STEIN, 27, clerk, Bellfont, Pa., but who for the last three years has been living in San Francisco, lacerated scalp, possible internal injuries and severe laceration to one wrist.
JACK BERGMAN, Canton, O., head injuries, hands burned, concussion of the brain.
FRANK L. MYERS, Columbia City, Ind., broken leg, and suffering severely from shock.
JAMES W. LACKEY, 1500 block Main street, Compton, Calif., head injuries, concussion of the brain, burned on right side.
TOM NIETO, Indian, Santa Domingo, concussion of brain, one foot and one hand burned, head injuries and bruises.
ELLIS HUFF, furniture salesman, Los Angeles, who was en route to Oklahoma City, cut on face and bruises. (His wife and son, KENNETH HUFF, 8 years old, were killed.)
JOE GASPARICH, Gallup, head injuries, concussion of the brain.
WILLIAM RICHARDS PERKINS, Pueblo, Colo., face cut, right leg wrenched.

Albuquerque Journal New Mexico 1930-04-12