Collinsburg, PA School Bus And Train Collision, Sep 1952




Monessen, Pa. - RONALD SAYKA, 17, became the latest victim of a school bus-train collision which has already taken three lives, when he died early this morning of a skull fracture in Westmoreland Hospital, Greensburg.

Monessen, Sept. 17 (AP) - Three high school girls were killed today and 47 other pupils injured by a freight train which slammed into the rear of their school bus and turned it into crumpled junk.
Fifteen of the injured boys and girls are in a serious condition.
Killed were JANICE EVERETT, 17, a senior; NORMA BERGMAN, 15, and LEOLA BRADLEY, 14. JANICE and LEOLA lived in Collinsburg within sight of the crossing. NORMA lived in nearby West Newton.
Bus driver EDWARD STEINER, 23, was taken into custody for questioning. He was a victim of shock.
Only an inch or two made the difference between disaster and safety.
The bus was bound for the Rostraver Township (Westmoreland County) High School. It stopped at Collinsburg to pick up 20 pupils and proceeded on its way with 55 passengers.
At the foot of a steep hill, the bus nosed onto the crossing. The oncoming train apparently was hidden by a curve.
Suddenly, the injured pupils said a shrill scream rang out. Startled pupils looked up to see the big, round end of the locomotive bearing down on them.
The train caught the bus by the bumper, slammed it around and then dragged it 50 feet. Bus engine and wheels were torn off and the body of the bus was ripped from the chassis. The doors and windows looked as though they had been slashed by a giant can opener.
Mrs. J. W. McCauley, wife of a West Newton funeral director who drove an ambulance to the scene, called the crash, "the most horrible thing I've ever seen."
The bus driver said he had stopped at the crossing but heard no whistle.
Said Mrs. McCauley:
"There were injured school children
all around. Nearly all were unconscious. Shoes, clothing and books were scattered all over."
The injured children were taken to different hospitals in Mr. Pleasant, Greensburg, Monessen and Pittsburgh. One of the dead girls was wrongly identified, an error which took hours to straighten out.
JOYCE GREENWOOD, 15, of West Newton, was credited with a heroine's role. Other pupils said she helped several children get out of the wreck although she had suffered cuts and bruises herself. JOYCE said: "Someone in the back screamed. We didn't hear the train at all."
"Someone screamed and I saw the big, round front of the train almost on top of us. I threw myself under a seat and just got bumped."
State police asked police in West Newton to arrest the bus driver, an employee of Doernte Bus Lines. He was lodged in jail for investigation but no charges were filed immediately.
The father of one of the injured pupils said he heard the train whistle from his nearby home. He is W. E. Barkstrom an extra engineer for the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad. Barkstrom said he was lying down when he heard the whistle and remarked to his wife: "There goes Goldsboro."
He said he referred to F. M. Goldsboro, engineer of the train.
Chief Dispatcher W. I. Otto of the railroad also said Goldsboro sounded his whistle and did not see the bus until he was two car lengths away. He was reported to be going about 30 miles an hour.
The train, bound from McKees Rocks to Connelsville, did not leave the tracks. But the hurtling bus knocked down communication lines and kept the railroad from getting any information on the crash for hours. Several residents turned out with blankets, sheets, coffee and first aid supplies.
Most of the injured suffered broken arms or legs and head injuries. All are expected to recover.

Bedford Gazette Pennsylvania 1952-09-18