Bloomington, IN Bus Crashes Into Abutment, Aug 1949
FIFTEEN KILLED IN BUS ACCIDENT.
BUS RIPS INTO ABUTMENT NEAR BLOOMINGTON.
FOURTEEN SURVIVORS OWE LIVES TO DRIVER OF GREYHOUND BUS.
Bloomington, Ind., Aug 10 -- (UP) -- A Greyhound bus crashed into a bridge abutment and burst into a sheet of fire early today, killing at least 15 persons.
Many of the 14 survivors owed their lives to WAYNE CRANMER, 25, Indianapolis, driver of the bus, who entered the burning coach repeatedly to drag out injured and terror-stricken passengers.
Nearly two hours after daybreak, 13 bodies had been removed and two more were visible in the charred and smoking debris. It looked like a flame thrower had destroyed the big bus.
The bus, headed for Evansville from Indianapolis, ripped into a concrete abutment on a bridge over a small creek on a winding, hilly state road linking Indianapolis with this Indiana University City, 50 miles southwest of the state capital.
Early Morning Crash.
The accident happened five miles north of here at 1:40 a.m. EST.
Survivors were thrown through the windshield or climbed out broken windows. Passengers trapped inside screamed in pain and fear as the flames leaped high into the air and enveloped the coach seconds after it crashed into the abutment with a ripping crash.
Thirteen survivors were brought to Bloomington Hospital and one was taken to a hospital at Martinsville, Ind., 25 miles north of here.
The bodies all appeared burned beyond recognition. Rescuers found two small children amond the dead. From their position in the wreckage, it appeared they were riding in a seat with a woman believed to be their mother. She also was killed.
The night was clear, with a full moon, when the accident occurred.
CRANMER, the bus driver, said that he lost control of the bus as it appreached the abutment.
"It seemed like the steering gear went out of order," he said. "Either that or we had a tire blow out. A second later we went off the road and hit the bridge."
CRAMNER was taken to a hospital after the crash and was unavailable for further statements.
Eye Witness Statements.
WILFRED LUTTRELL, an Evansville, Ind., truck driver, was riding in the front seat of the bus when it rammed the abutment.
"I flew through the air and right out the windshield," he said.
He saw what was going to happen.
"We were heading right toward the bridge abutment," he said, "but I thought the driver would cut back into the traffic lane."
"LUKE SHUTE of Bloomington was sitting by me and he went out the windshield with me. I landed on the concrete highway on top of some glass from the windshield. I was cut and bruised from skimming along, the road on top of the glass."
A spokesman for the National Safety Council described the accident at "certainly one of the worst in a decade" for busses.
CRAMER said he had "about 29 passengers" aboard the bus when he left his laft stop, Martinsville, on the next stage here.
The bus burned for hours after the crash and officers could not enter it until daybreak to remove the bodies.
Meanwhile, Bloomington Mayor THOMAS LEMON ordered a temporary morgue established in the armory to receive the bodies.
Driver Loses Control.
CRAMER said that as he lost control, the bus "just seemed to slide into that big hunk of concrete."
It hit on the right front side, then turned over on its left side.
The gasoline tanks exploded a second afterward, turning the bus into a pyre for the trapped occupants.
WELLS W. RICHARDSON, 19, Evansville, was enroute home after attending a boys tennis tournament at Elkhart, Ind.
"I was dozing when all of a sudden I heard a big crash," he said. "The next thing I knew I was on my back. A negro man broke out a back window and I dived through it. By that time the whole bus was on fire. I saw lots of bodies just before I went out the window but there wasn't time to help them. I had to dive through flames myself to get out."
RICHARDSON suffered minor injuries.
LUKE SHUTE, 50, enroute home to Bloomington said "I was awake and sitting in a front seat but don't know what caused the crash."
"The bus just hit the abutment and turned over on its side," he said. "Flames shot up very quickly and I only saw four or five people get out."
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