Survivors of 1935 bus crash hold reunion

July 22, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

Survivors of 1935 bus crash hold reunion

WILLIAMSPORT - Eighty-two-year-old Duward Hose still remembers the bright lights of the oncoming train that killed his best friend and 13 other classmates 65 years ago.

The B&O express train struck a school bus en route to Williamsport High School from a chemistry show at the University of Maryland, College Park, on April 11, 1935, at a grade crossing in Rockville, Md., shearing the bus in two.

Everyone seated in the back half of the bus perished.

Hose, then 17, was seated just ahead of his lab partner and best friend, Jim Flurie, he said.

"Everyone behind me was annihilated," he said. "I never got over it."

Hose and four other survivors were honored July 18 at a banquet in the basement of the Williamsport Memorial Library, which was built in 1937 in memory of those who died that rainy night.

Former Williamsport High science teacher Louise Funk Beachley, 93, and fellow accident survivors Hose, Jane Staley Yeakle, Blanche Long Litten and Wilma Newey Morris attended the ceremony, which featured a catered meal.


Members of the library board, town officials and survivors' family members also attended.

A plaque engraved with the names of those students killed in the crash graces the entrance to the library, reminding visitors of the tragedy that spawned the building's construction.

The survivors need few reminders.

"You never forget it," said Morris, 81. "You hear the noise. You just hear that awful crashing and banging."

Litten, 81, lost three close friends that night, she said.

The bus' occupants had been singing but were quiet as they approached the grade crossing, survivor Blanche Boyer told reporters at the time. The teenager saw a "streak of blinding light" and heard a "loud sound" before being thrown through the wreckage of the mangled bus, she said.

Bodies were strewn along 200 yards of track, according to newspaper accounts.

Beachley, who resisted medical care following the crash until helping with student identifications, remembered young Wilma Newey saying at the time that all she could see were the wheels of the train.

Litten recalled how her long coat got snagged in the wreckage behind her, where everyone was dead.

Yeakle, 83, moved to the front of the bus prior to the crash. She suffered a broken arm.

"It wasn't my time," she told classmate Irene Stenger Shank, whose father wouldn't let her go on the field trip. "I really believe that."

The crash made national headlines, and was used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to underscore the need to spend $200 million on a public works project to replace grade crossings with overpasses.

The Rockville crossing was eventually closed, but the tragedy that occurred there was never forgotten.

"We were almost like brothers and sisters in this small town," Morris said.

The crash "affected every family in Williamsport," said Duward Hose's younger brother, Spencer, who was 10 at the time of the accident. "It really took its toll."

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