Conway, NH Tour Bus and Car Collision, Oct 1978
DEATH HITS FOLIAGE TOUR.
Conway, N.H. (AP) - A guardrail prevented further loss of life in a fiery crash between a car and a bus filled with elderly mid-Westerners on a fall foliage tour, police say. The two people in the car were killed and 17 bus passengers were injured.
The guardrail on the scenic Kancamagus Highway prevented the Kansas City-based bus from tumbling down an embankment into a river on Wednesday, police said.
"They were lucky that guardrail was there," a state trooper said. "They would have gone down the ravine for sure."
The car, a four-wheel-drive vehicle, strayed over the center line and smashed into the oncoming Continental Trailways bus about six miles from Conway, police said.
The dead were tentatively identified as JOHN MITCHELL, 65, of Greensboro, Vt., the driver, and PHYLLIS KNIGHT, 65, of North Bridgeton, Maine.
"We theorize that the driver of the vehicle may have turned to his left to look at the view then crossed into the oncoming lane," said Carroll County Attorney Frederic Cox.
The bus driver, ALVIN BALLOU, 47, of Edwardsville, Kan., pulled far to the right to avoid the oncoming vehicle, police and passengers said. But the left front end of the car hit the bus just below the driver.
"After the crash we were all everywhere, some down on the floor,"
said STANLEY DUNKIN of Salina, Kan., one of 40 passengers on the bus.
"The car bounced back and caught fire. We couldn't even get out to help them. They were cremated," he said.
With the flaming vehicle only 15 feet away, passengers knocked out the bus windows and climbed to safety.
"I was afraid the bus would catch on fire," said ROSE ELLEN STINE, leader of the Travel and Transport Inc. tour. "But there was no panic. It was very calm and I am very thankful."
A spokesman at Memorial Hospital in North Conway, center of the White Mountains resort area, said 16 persons were treated for minor injuries and released.
WILLA BAKER, 69, of Independence, Mo., was admitted with broken ribs.
A Trailways spokesman said the bus left Kansas City Sept. 24 as part of a three-bus convoy.
The 16-day tour had left Portland, Maine, Wednesday morning and was headed for White River Junction, Vt., when the accident occurred, he said. After dinner Wednesday night, a new bus transported most tour group members involved in the accident to White River Junction.
Garden City Telegram Kansas 1978-10-05