Bakersfield, CA Streamline Train Hits Oil Tank Truck, Mar 1960



Bakersfield, March 2 -- The death toll rose to 14 today in the thundering crash of the streamlined San Francisco Chief and a giant oil truck. Rescue workers freed two more bodies from the tangled wreckage 15 hours after the disaster. Forty-five others, 14 from the Eastbay, were injured as the train rocketed with a terrifying road into the truck. The vehicle exploded in flames on impact.
The bomb-like blast of the collision rocked the countryside. The truck disintegrated in a ball of fire.
Nine cars of the Chicago-bound Chief which left Richmond at 11:59 a.m. yesterday, hurtled off the tracks and lay like twisted tin toys over a field.
The screams of the trapped, injured and dying pierced through the steady roar of the flames.
The dead included ten passengers, three crewmen and the truck driver. The crash occurred at 5:08 p.m.
One man was trapped for almost eight hours and was finally brought out alive, but horribly injured.
Mass Of Wreckage.
The Santa Fe train's four Diesel engines, two baggage cars and the first three chair cars were tangled together in tragic geometric design.
Passengers had very little warning of the impending crash. Some felt a slight jar. Others thought they head a whistle and felt the grinding of brakes. One man said he saw the truck approaching the crossing.
Then: "The next thing I knew we were going through a blaze of fire," said passenger MRS. LUCILLE BONETTE of Kansas City, Mo.
This was the rest of the train passing through the flames of the wreckage which had already boomed through the first cars.
The gleaming streamliner made nine stops after leaving Richmond in the morning.
It sped through Bakersfield at about 85 miles an hour.
The tank truck-trailer carrying 8,000 gallons of fuel oil headed for the Allen Ave. crossing about one-half mile north of the Rosedale Highway.
Then: a thundering blast as they collided.
"I was coming out of my barn when I saw a huge flash and flames shooting a hundred feet into the sky," said farmer FRED BLAKELY. "A piece of rail came flying through the air."
Truck driver JOHN GARRETT, 46, of Bakersfield, driving a truck owned by Oglesby Brothers Petroleum Transportation Co., either didnn't see or failed to heed a reflectorized warning sign at the railroad crossing, said investigators.
He might have realized, in the final seconds what was happening.
Turned Too Late.
Witnesses told the investigators that the truck driver turned his vehicle in a direction parallel to the tracks as the thundering Chief bore down.
"It sounded like a sonic boom," said BLAKELY. "Clouds of black smoke boiled up."
"I ran about 300 yards to the passenger car nearest me. Children inside were crying. The passengers broke windows and carried children outside to me."
"It was horrible. Just horrible."
Inside, it was worse.
"The train started to twist and jerk and seats flew through the car. Most of us were thrown around like rag dolls ..." That's the way Airman 1/c DONALD SUTHERLAND, 25, remembers it.
Through Flames.
Lounge car attendant EDGAR POLLARD said:
"I felt a couple of short jolts. I think the engineer tried to apply the brakes. Then there was the crash and flames along each side of the car."
EDWARD MITCHELL, another attendant.
"I was thrown to the floor -- hard. I knew it was bad. There was a nurse in our car and she was a real Florence Nightingale...."
MRS. DELMA CASEY, 23, of Waco, Tex., a passenger who had visited her parents in San Leandro:
"There was one woman bleeding awfully bad but I never found out what was wrong with her."
"Our coach turned sideways and the front end of it hung over some sort of a bank right alongside the track ..... "
Goes A Mile.
The sleek train went for a mile after the crash before it ground and twisted and jerked to an angonizing halt.
Six coaches slid into a ditch. All were knocked into grotesque positions.
Then fire trucks raced to the scene as word of the tragedy was flashed throughout the city of 100,000.
All available ambulances sped to the disaster.
A call for every doctor and nurse in the area went out.
Physicians climbed over and around the wreckage, feeling for pulses that would mean a life spared.
Rescue crews rushed cutting torches to the scene to pull out trapped passengers.
Cranes and bulldozers rumbled to the wreckage, to gently move it in search for dead and injured.
Hundreds Gather.
Floodlights turned the gathering dark, and later night, into a false day as dozens, then hundreds, gathered at the site of destruction.
Police deputies and the highway patrol held back the crowd.
More than 250 pints of blood were collected and reserved for the injured at Mercy, Kern and Memorial Hospitals in Bakersfield.
Among the dead were Engineer L. A. SNYDER and Fireman A. H. BRAWLEY, both of Fresno.
Some of the cars were left hanging over a 30-foot embankment. Rescue workers had to climb from below to reach them.
The scene of carnage was also a scene of wreckage. Huge pieces of steel -- both train and truck -- were a hundred feet or more from the main bulk of the train.
Truck In Pieces.
The truck was bits of black metal scattered here and there over the countryside.
Offers of help came from everywhere for the 83 persons aboard the modern streamliner.
It took a dozen fire companies two hours to finally quench the raging flames that followed the roaring crash of train and truck.
The train was carrying three bodies en route to burial back east. They were thrown loose and momentarily confused the count of those killed in the crash.
A train was dispatched from Los Angeles and picked up 51 of the passengers who chose to continue their trip. Many of the passengers who were not injured, stunned by the disaster, declined to continue.
The wreckage was cleared from the tracks, and the rail repaired, by 10 a.m. today, opening the important Santa Fe line again.
The doomed train was to have reached Chicago at 2 p.m. tomorrow, Central Time.
Santa Fe's last major crash was on Jan. 23, 1956, when 29 were killed and 142 injured in a wreck near Los Angeles.

Bakersfield, March 2 -- Here is a list of persons identified as among the dead in the passenger train crash yesterday:
L. A. SNYDER, engineer, Fresno.
A. H. BRALEY, fireman, Fresno.
JOHN CARRETT, truck driver, Bakersfield.
HARLEY E. WATKINS, 54, Bakersfield.
ULYSSES HICKS, 47, of 1538 Broderick St., San Francisco.
MRS. GREETJE FARJON, 63, of Curacoa, Netherlands-Antilles Dutch West Indies.
M/Sgt. PATRICK J. BRENNAN, Camp Irwin, Calif.
ED HAYS, 29, Houston, Tex.
ALICE JORDAN, 69, Cabot, Ark.

Oakland Tribune California 1960-03-02



I believe I have about 20 slides of this wreck. Here are 5. Can anyone confirm?

Train derailment

My grandmother was one of the injured on this train. It happened three years before I was even born. Kinda cool thinking your father could have helped my grandmother.

Train derailment

My father was bringing me home from school that day saw the smoke and drove over to the tracks. We lived on Allen Road one half mile from crossing. I was seven years old and my father made me stay in the truck while he worked all night pulling people from the train and comforting them. The carnage was horrendous and I won't go into details of that. In the middle of the night dad sent a man to check on me. My father was very brave and always good under pressure. He held one lady in his arms talking gently to her until she passed. The other gentleman was correct . There was no 30 foot drop there.

ED HAYS, 29, Houston, Tex.

Does anyone have any information on ED HAYS, 29, Houston, Tex. Who parished in the crash?

witness to caranage

My Uncle,Raulie Azevedo,was a Captain with the Kern County Fire Dept.The images of that crash haunted him for the rest of his life.

Train wreck

My Uncle,Raulie Azevedo was a Capt.with the K.C. fire dept at the time of this accident.he told me that most engines were out there for three days atleast. this accident affected my Uncle for the rest of his life,he told me that this was probably the closest you could get to 'Hell on Earth".

I was there!

I was one of the children on the train, along with my sister Karen and our mother Delma Casey. I have flashes of memory from this wreak, such as being pulled through a window, riding in a metal crib at the hospital, seeing my mother in a wheel chair. I was told that someone gave me a sip of whiskey to stop my crying.

Complete death records?

Does anyone know how I could find out the complete list of the dead in this wreck?
I am looking for grandparents.
Thank you so much. It is very important to me.

The john doe that was found was my great great grandpa

My great great grandpa Richard James Summit was on the truck with Mr.Garrett my grandma Florence Summit was 9 years old at the time my great great grandpa had a will that he left his mother to enforce her name was florence also in the will he had left 4 of 7 oil wells to his 4 daughters one each and the rest to his mother well his 4 girls were still very young so she kept all 7 wells for herself and the girl went in and out of halfway homes and what have you. living very hard lives when the oldest turned 18 yrs old she wanted her portion of what he had left her. his mother had turned into a very rich women do to the wells that she had stolen from the girls well years down the road she was put into a old folks home because she was going senile in the process her daughter my great great grandpas sister emma had florences will saying that the wells would go to her (emma) well years later emma dies and leaves the wells and the money that had been stolen from my grandma florence and her 3 sisters to her 2 sons so please if you have any ideas or info please email me at mike.stout9@gmail.com thanks for reading

thank you

thank you for this very informative update ...
Please remember, I only transcribe what is written in the newspaper I am transcribing from at the time ..
I only reproduce what had been reported at the time be it right or wrong ...
It is always great to hear an accurate update from someone with "first hand" information on an incident.
Thank you very much