Merced, CA School Bus And Train Collide, May 1931
6TH VICTIM DIES IN CRASH OF SCHOOL BUS AND TRAIN; DRIVER'S STORIES DIFFER.
FIFTY CHILDREN IN CAR AS FREIGHT WRECKS IT, INJURING 22 OTHERS; OPERATOR IS ALSO NEAR DEATH.
FIVE PROBES OPEN AT MERCED.
Merced, May 8 - Six children are dead, two others are dying, and five are critically injured as the result of a collision late yesterday between a school bus loaded with 50 school children, all under 11 years of age, and a Santa Fe freight train at a grade crossing on the outskirts of Merced.
In addition to this toll, F. D. CREGGER, the bus driver, is believed fatally injured, and 14 children are recovering from minor hurts. Twenty-three of the children escaped uninjured.
The disaster, one of the most horrible of its kind in the history of California, plunged the entire San Joaquin valley into mourning.
As doctors and nurses struggled to keep life in broken bodies, besieged by grief-stricken parents who sought to learn the fate of their loved ones, officials moved to determine the cause of the tragedy in a five-fold investigation.
Probes were being undertaken by Merced police, school district officials, investigators for the Santa Fe railroad, the Stanislaus County district attorney and coroner and the state railroad commission.
After receiving a preliminary report of the police investigation from Traffic Sergeant W. A. Burch, District Attorney F. M. Ostrander announced today that, should CREGGER recover, he will be charged with manslaughter.
Death struck at 3:15 o'clock yesterday afternoon as the bus, loaded with children of the first six grades of the John C. Fremont grammar school, attempted to cross the Santa Fe tracks at G Street, on the Bear Creek Road, four blocks from the schoolhouse.
According to witnesses, the view of the tracks was clear and unobstructed, a wig-wag signal was operating, and the freight train, proceeding at a speed of eight miles an hour after slowing down for a switch, whistled twice as an additional warning.
Says Train Went 25 Miles An Hour.
John Robinson, Jr., father of one of the most seriously injured children and a witness to the accident, declared, however, that the train was traveling at "25 miles per hour or more." Mrs. D.R. Oliver, another witness, came forward today and said the train was "making great speed." Later authorities questioned a tramp, B.C. Thompson, who said he had seen the crash and estimated the train was making 40 miles an hour as it approached the crossing.