Aragon, GA School Bus And Train Collision, Oct 1974

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa ARAGON GA



Aragon, Ga. (UPI) - Seven children were killed and 73 other persons injured Wednesday when a train backed into a school bus crammed with screaming pupils who could see it coming but couldn't escape.
The bus, carrying children to three elementary schools in the area, began to cross the tracks when the driver thought the work train had stopped. Instead, the train, loaded with railroad ties, lurched into reverse and smashed into the bus.
Thirty children were treated for injuries immediately after the crash and as the day wore on, the injury figure reached 71, including the driver, according to Donald Tate, administrator of Rockmart-Aragon Hospital. Four of the injured were hospitalized. One, CECIL WIGLEY, whose brother was killed, was in critical condition.
Tate said he was told the bus had 65 seats, but Georgia law permits a 20 per cent overload.
"The train stopped down there like it was going to let BILLY (KELLETT, the driver) go across,"
said TOMMY DUKE, 11, a sixth grader at Euhallee Elementary School, who was sitting in the back of the bus.
"When BILLY started to go, it started coming back."
"Everybody started tumbling over the seats. They just started screaming and the it hit."
GERALD ROPER, an 11-year-old who suffered a broken arm, said he climbed out a broken window when the bus came to rest. "They were all screaming and hollering," he said.
Joan Miller, one of the first to reach the scene, said she saw "all those little kids lying around. Some looked dead and they were covering them up."
"The bus looked like an accordion and some kids were lying under the bus. One kid was crying and looking for two of his brothers."
Pushed 100 yards down the tracks, the bus came to rest upside down with the caboose partly on top it. The sides of the bus crumpled under the impact, leaving it resembling a squeezed toothpaste tube.
The dead were two girls and five boys, including brothers MIKE and TIMOTHY STAMPS, all between the ages of six and 12. They apparently died instantly.
Four of the injured were, hospitalized, and the rest were released after treatment.
Georgia State Patrol Corporal Charles Sanders said the train's brakeman, R. W. Moree, told him he was calling off car lengths from the crossing from his observation post in the caboose as the train neared the intersection.
Moree said the track was clear when he was only about "two crossties away," or about 10 feet, the trooper said.
Darrell Smith, who was pumping gas at a nearby grocery, said, however, he heard train workers screaming to the engineer, "go back, go back."
In addition to the STAMPS brothers, the dead were NEAL WILLIAMS; JERRY WIGLEY; TIMOTHY STREETMAN and two girls, LYNN MORGAN; and CHRIS HOLDER.
A National Transportation Safety Board spokesman said the federal government would investigate the accident.

Times Recorder Zanesville Ohio 1974-10-24