Murray, UT Ski Bus Accident, Dec 1981


Murray, Utah (AP) -- The driver of a ski-club bus that went out of control and wrecked, killing two students and seriously injuring two others, says she had to pump the brakes to stop earlier in the day but thought nothing of it at the time.
"When I stopped, going out of town this morning at the railroad tracks, I had to pump hard and it lurched a little," said JULIE ANN NISHI, 25, of Kemmerer, Wyo.
The school bus was traveling down a steep mountain road near Murray Sunday when the brakes went out, and MRS. NISHI tried desperately to slow it by downshifting and running its side against a canyon wall. But the bus flipped, rocks peeled off its roof, and some of the 38 students inside were tossed out.
The students and their adviser were on an excursion of the Kemmerer High School Ski Club. Salt Lake County deputies said the bus was going down Little Cottonwood Canyon on its way back from the Alta ski resort.
The adviser, ZEM HOPKINS, said he told the students to grab their ankles and brace themselves. The bus then "hit the side of the wall, spun and rolled," he said.
KARYN WALKER, 16, who received minor head and neck injuries, said that after HOPKINS' warning, "everybody started screaming and we were going around ... really fast."
Speculating on what caused the brakes to fail, MRS. NISHI said: "Poor maintenance. I don't know ... don't put down poor maintenance because I just don't know." She has been a school bus driver at Kemmerer for about three years.
Sheriff's Lt. Bruce Thayne said the bus came to rest on its left side across the two-lane road, about 2 1/2 miles from the canyon's mouth. He said no snow or ice was on the road, which is cut into the steep north wall of the canyon and descends about 3,500 feet in 10 miles. The canyon is about 20 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.
At about 9 p.m., five hours after the accident, Kemmerer Principal James Cross arrived with another bus.
JULIE POULSEN, 17, was dead on arrival at Cottonwood Hospital in Murray, spokesman Steve Brown said, and ANNELISE WILSON, 16, died after surgery at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, nursing supervisor Kathy Wood said.
MADONNA CROSSWEIGHT, 17, was in critical condition and undergoing surgery today at Cottonwood. GEORGE CRANK, 16, was in fair condition and held for observation for a possible ruptured spleen, Brown said.
MRS. NISHI was treated for a leg injury and released. Others on board the bus were examined at Cottonwood, and a number were treated and released.

Alton Telegraph Illinois 1981-12-07