Lafayette, OR School Bus and Train Collision, Sep 1976


Lafayette, Ore. (UPI) - The children on the Yamhill County school bus hollered "train" as their sun blinded driver drove on to the tracks. And then it hit.
"I didn't see it. I didn't see it," injured bus driver RUDOLPH BAKER moaned in the mangled wreck of his school bus where two children died and 37 were injured.
ANNETTE SMITH, 9, and CHRISTINE ESPINOZA, 8, were crushed in the Wednesday crash. The two youngsters were the first persons to die aboard an Oregon school bus in the state's history.
Apparently blinded by the morning sun, RUDOLPH BAKER, 53, drove into the path of the Southern Pacific locomotive and caboose. The screams of children on board who saw the train came too late to stop the crash.
WANDA STAFFORD, 14, said the bus came to a rolling stop just over the tracks.
"He came to the railroad tracks and he stopped with the front wheels on the track," WANDA said.
"When we all hollered 'train,' it hit us," she said.
WANDA said she made her way to the front of the bus to see if the bus driver was injured and help some of the bleeding, hysterical younger children out of the bus.
"He says, 'I didn't see it. I didn't see it. I'm really sorry, but I didn't see it,'" she recalled BAKER saying.
A third student, LAURIE BARR, 16, was in extremely critical condition suffering from massive head injuries. She was rushed by ambulance to the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center in Portland, some 35 miles from the crash site.
The injured also included 35 other children and BAKER. Several of the injured children were reported in serious condition, suffering from head injuries.
"The is the worst moment I can ever remember," said Jack Sperr, public transportation director of the Oregon Education Department.
Sperr said the driver had been driving school buses four years, had a record of attendance at school bus driving classes and had a good driving record.
News of the crash swept through the rural area minutes after the collision. Fearful parents rushed to two local hospitals where most of the children were taken, some arriving in tears.
George Kraus, public relations officer for the Southern Pacific in Portland, said that "every indication we have is that there were no adverse conditions. The locomotive crew did everything humanly possible to avoid this tragedy but when a school bus or any other vehicle simply pulls onto a crossing in the face of an approaching train there is nothing humanly or physically possible that will avert an accident.

Evening Herald Shenandoah Pennsylvania 1876-09-09