Monday, April 21, 2014

Victims of school bus-train crash remembered 75 years later

By Alex Cabrero, Deseret News

Published: Mon, Dec. 2 5:05 p.m. MST

 Wanda Scheels Naylor reacts as South Jordan unveils a monument Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, at Heritage Park, in memory of 23 children and one adult killed when a train hit a school bus in 1938.

Wanda Scheels Naylor reacts as South Jordan unveils a monument Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, at Heritage Park, in memory of 23 children and one adult killed when a train hit a school bus in 1938.

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SOUTH JORDAN — A fatal bus accident 75 years ago changed bus laws in every state. On Monday, the tragedy was commemorated with a new monument.

On Dec. 1, 1938, a bus carrying 39 students from Jordan High School had stopped in front of railroad tracks near 10600 South and 300 West in South Jordan.

The bus driver had stopped to look for a train, but a blizzard with fierce winds caused almost zero visibility and prevented the driver from seeing the northbound Denver & Rio Grande Western train that hit the bus as it crossed the tracks.

The driver, Farrold Silcox, and 23 of the students were killed that day, and the accident remains the worst school bus-train crash in U.S. history.

The effects of the tragedy are still real for survivors and their families.

"I just can't hardly imagine it's been 75 years," said Wanda Naylor, 92.

On Nov. 30, 1938, Naylor was supposed to spend the night at a friend's house and ride the bus to school with her the next day. But Naylor's friend was sick, so Naylor stayed home and took her regular bus to school.

She waited at the old Jordan High School for her friend to arrive.

"They never came," Naylor recalled. "And I was inside because it was snowy. We went into the school and went to our first class, and the teacher was crying. Ms. Hawkins was her name. Then the bell rang very loud two or three times. They wanted all students in the auditorium, and that's when we were told of the tragedy."

To this day, Naylor said she still thinks about the accident and wonders why things happened the way they did for her.

"I've never forgotten. I haven't dwelled on it, but it makes you want to cry every time I think about it," she said.

Joyce Holder's older sister, Virginia, was one of the students killed that day.

"It was an awful, awful day," Holder said. "I can remember mother coming to school to get me out of class and to tell me what had happened. I was devastated. She was my only sibling. And I have missed her so terribly, and I think the older I get the more I miss her. I would give anything if I could talk to her now and get her advice and counsel on things."

Lamar Mabey's mother, Ann, survived the crash, but her injuries plagued her during her lifetime.

"She was so badly beat up," Mabey said. "Her back was broken, both legs were broken, her arms were broken. The person she was sitting next to was killed in the accident."

Now 75 years later, those who lived through the crash will always remember the day that changed their lives forever.

"Nobody knows how many memories I have of all these bus crash victims, and I have never, never once forgotten them," Naylor said.

The deadly accident led to a nationwide law requiring buses to stop at all railroad crossings so the driver can both look and listen for oncoming trains.

South Jordan hosted a ceremony Monday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the crash by unveiling a new monument at Heritage Park, 10778 S. Redwood Road.

Naylor and other friends and relatives of the victims were in attendance, along with survivors of the crash, to look back on the tragedy and remember those lost.

Funds were raised for the memorial through a public and private initiative. The city provided some of the money, and local residents and businesses raised or donated the rest of the funds.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article listed the address of the accident incorrectly. It has been corrected.

EMAIL: acabrero@deseretnews.com

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1. Lyle
Springville, UT,
Dec. 2, 2013

The next time somebody asks why the busses stop and open their doors at railroad crossings, I will know the answer.