Kingsburg, CA Train And Oil Truck Collision, Feb 1947



Kingsburg, Feb. 5. -- (U.P.) -- The death toll in the collision of the Southern Pacific's proud orange and red streamliner "San Joaquin Daylight" and an oil-laden truck here mounted to four today.
Sixty-four others, including MRS. HELEN EISELE of 738 Occidental Avenue, San Mateo, were injured when the speeding north-bound train smashed into the trailer of the truck and spewed flaming fuel over the locomotive and ten cars.
KAY HANSEN of 1841 Fish Avenue, Pasadena, died in Kingsburg sanitarium today from burns and injuries incurred in the holocaust.
As fire blackened cars of the streamliner were removed from the scene, only seared foliage, charred railroad ties and scattered bits of burned baggage marked the road bed where the locomotive dragged the exploded and blazing trailer 1000 feet down the track.
As the train stopped, jets of flame spewed against the windows where 263 passengers looked out in horror. Among them, but unharmed, was Amos Alonzo Stagg, patriarch of American football coaches who was on his way from Los Angeles to Stockton.

Engine Crew Killed.
The explosion and swirling inferno of ignited oil killed GEORGE SCHNECKENBERGER, the engineer; ERNEST M. COMER, the fireman, both of Bakersfield, Calif., and MRS. SARA E. BADGLEY, an aged passenger from Dunsmuir, Calif.
SCHNECKENBERGER apparently put on the locomotive's brakes before he died. If he hadn't, officials said, the fiery train might have continued for miles across the plain -- with other trainmen unable to reach the cab because of the flames and firefighters left helplessly behind in Kingsburg. A steam locomotive has no "dead man's throttle" to halt it automatically.

Driver Escapes.
The driver of the truck, PHILIP LEE MAYER, 21, of Fresno, who escaped injury, claimed the automatic wigwag signal at the grade crossing was not working when he started across the tracks. Southern Pacific officials disputed his claim.
Early today, 47 people still were in San Joaquin valley hospitals, mostly suffering from minor burns. Among the injured was GEORGE C. MASSINE, the daylight's head brakeman, who suffered burned hands and feet.
Passengers said flames licked up the sides of the coaches, and oil stuck in window crevices blazed in haloes around the glass panes.

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Kingsburg crash

A Facebook friend sent me a bundle of official SP photos from this accident. I've worked a good part of my 38 year career with SP/UP and never heard about this accident. If you're interested in seeing the photos check out the facebook group "We Love History!". I'll be posting them in the next few days.

Late husband was a member of the San Francisco Shamrocks

My late husband Bernie McCarthy was playing for S.F.Shamrocks and was on that train. We were not married until 1985 but he told me the story. He was playing cards with some fellow teammates, all of them relaxed, in their stocking feet when the crash occurred. They broke windows and helped people to escape. On the opposite side to where he broke windows and escaped with cut hands the people who tried to get out there got trapped between a chain link fence and the train surrounded by flames and most perished. One of his teammates lost an ear and others were badly injured. They were on their way up to either Seattle or New Westminster for a championship game. The Pacific Coast Hockey League lent them players from other teams to replace the injured players so they could finish the tournament. Needless to say they lost. The following year when he played for San Diego Skyhawks they won the Championship. After the crash he was taken by Red Cross, given a pair of slippers and coffee and was charged $2.00 for that. He was so angry at having to pay for that coffee that over the years he would NEVER donate anything to Red Cross! He had also played for L.A. Monarchs in the late '40's. When the PCHL disbanded in 1950 he was hired by AT&SF Railway and put in over 25 yrs., before having a heart attack on the job and was forced to retire .

Oil tanker truck hit by Kingsburg, Feb., 1940.

I was walking home along the railroad tracks when this accident occurred. I was only six years old at the time but I distinctly remember a Black porter, throwing an infant out of the broken windows of one of the burning train cars whom rescuers caught! It was one of the biggest tragedies to have ever happened in such a small town.