Atwater, OH Train And School Bus Collision, Oct 1923



Ravenna, Ohio, Oct. 11 -- Eight children were killed instantly, a man and a boy were seriously hurt and two others suffered minor injuries near here today when a speeding Pennsylvania flyer crashed into a school bus.
Death struck viciously as the school hack, one of the old horse drawn, side seated carriers, came up on the "Lambert Crossing" of the Pennsylvania line one half mile from Atwater, Ohio, and three miles from Ravenna.
Sixteen school children, a two year old girl and the driver were in the bus when the crash occurred.
The train was the fast Pittsburgh-Cleveland Pennsylvania passenger flying through the country at a rate between 50 and 60 miles an hour.
Six of the youngsters escaped the fate of their companions by jumping from the rear of the bus.
The official list of dead given out shortly after 10 a.m. follows:
The injured:
LEWIS CLINE, 42, driver, critical condition.
STEVE WANCIK, 11, serious condition.
LAWRENCE SHAW, 8, minor injuries.
Six children escaped injury by jumping from the bus.
The first statement of the responsibility for the tragedy was made by ANDREW KAZIMER, 14, first one to see the approaching train. He was seated at the extreme end of the bus and heard the whistle of the train as it swung around a bend several hundred feet away.
He screamed a warning and flung himself off the back step. A few hours later he made the statement that LEWIS KLEIN, the bus driver, had not looked to see if the tracks were clear before he drove on to them.
KLEIN made a furious effort to have his team and bus clear the tracks but only the front part of the vehicle was across the tracks before the engine with brakes grinding smashed into the bus. It crumpled like paper and thrown to one side of the tracks with its burden of mangled bodies, while the two plunging horses escaped injury.
A heart-rending scene awaited members of the train crew and passengers who ran back along the track after the train had been brought to a stop several hundred feet away.
Four of the children of C. G. Shaw, farmer, were in the ill-fated bus. Three of them, MILDRED, 11; HAROLD, 9; and VERNA, 2, were killed instantly. The fourth, LAWRENCE, 8, is in a Ravenna hospital with a broken back. His condition is critical.
Bodies of the children were strewn for many feet along the tracks while several of the injured and dying made feeble attempts to extricate themselves from the crumpled bus.
Ambulances were summoned from Ravenna while the rapidly collecting farmers gathered up the little bodies and placed them in a row on the weed-covered right of way.
The most sorrowful feature of the tragedy was the blot which the accident cast on the C. G. Shaw household. Three of the Shaw children were killed outright and a fourth escaped with injuries. VERNA SHAW, but two years old, was going to school to spend the day with her brothers and sisters.
Little STEVE VANCIK was seriously injured while trying to save himself. He leaped from the bus but was caught under the train and hurled under the locomotive. By a remarkable circumstance he escaped being ground to death.
All of the children were bound for the Rootstown central school and the bus was within a mile of its destination at the railroad. Many of the children rode the same bus all of last year over the same route.
Each morning they waited at their homes or walked over to the bus route with their lunch boxes. It was a merry crowd of youngsters, talking happily, which fate picked for the tragedy.
An eye-witness account of the tragedy was given by William F. Hennessy, Lakewood real estate man who was on the train.
"We had just finished dressing about 8:30 a.m. when the train gave a sudden jerk," Hennessy said. "There was a splintering crash. I almost pitched headlong into the side of the coach."
"I immediately sensed an accident and raised the window near me."
"There ahead of me I saw the splintered bus. Almost directly under my window I saw the mangled body of a child. I hurried out of the coach and ran up the tracks to the head of the train."
"As I neared it, farmer-folk living near by rushed screaming from their homes and brakemen and train crews were picking up bodies."
"On the fender were the bodies of three more children."
"They body of one of them had been driven in between the cow-catcher and the lower section of the engine with such terrible force that several members of the crew had to exticate it."
"The moans of the injured children, the screams of the farmers, the shouting of orders by the train crew and the excitement of the passengers created a scene that was horrible."
"Along the right of way for more than 200 yards the bodies of children were strewn terribly mangled."
"Efforts to obtain assistance and to help to take the injured children to a hospital were delayed because there were no telephones nearby."
"It seemed to me that the engineer of the train, F. R. McCaslin, did what he could to avert the crash, for the whine of the breaks could be heard before the crash and the jerk."
Little ELIZABETH HERRICK, six and spending her first year in school was made an eye witness by the odd fate which killed eight of her school companions.
And by another stroke of fate she escaped probable death in the doomed bus. She was standing less than 100 feet from the crossing on the far side waiting for the bus to stop and pick her up.
With lunch box and books under her arm, she watched the approaching horses and an instant later saw the rushing train change the scene to tragedy.
Her escape as a passenger at the time of the crash was due to the fact that she had waited near her home for the bus instead of going down the road to her grandmother's home where she usually waits.

Sandusky Star Journal Ohio 1923-10-11