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Smith Family - Crescent City

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Re: !933 School Bus Accident

Kristy (View posts)
Posted: 22 Nov 2004 9:26AM GMT
Classification: Query
I would hope after 4 years you found what you were looking for but incase someone else is lookinf for it here is the Story

"Within a mile or two of the April 18 Amtrak Auto Train wreck is the unmarked site of another train wreck, one that left this south Putnam County area in despair nearly 70 years ago.
On Dec. 14, 1933, 11 children were killed when their school bus was hit by an Atlantic Coast Line freight train.
According to the Dec. 15, 1933 Palatka Daily News, "The most horrible accident in the history of this section happened yesterday morning near Crescent City when a school bus was crashed into by a freight train, resulting in the deaths of ten of the school children and the serious injury of a score of others -- several of whom are not expected to recover."
Fog was blamed. A heavy fog, noted the Daily News account, "so obscuring the view that no one saw the approaching freight train, and the talk of the children doubtless drowned out the blowing of the whistle of the train for the crossing. The train was within ten feet of the bus before its oncoming was noted; then it was too late. The impact demolished the bus, and a frightful scene followed. Four bodies lay on the cow catcher ..."
The children were in their bus with many of the canvas curtains lowered. It was speculated that few of the 27 children on board saw the train before the crash.
The bus was a standard, mid-1920s truck chassis with a home-built wooden body. Children sat on benches running the length of the bus.
Scattered for more than 100 yards at the wreck site were schoolbooks, lunches, hats and clothing.
A Crescent City policeman said there was so much "confusion and screaming I can barely recall any details of the hurried rescue work. Grief stricken mothers sought wildly to learn if their children were in the long list of dead or injured. Everybody was too horrified and confused to think of anything except to remove the mangled dead and to get the injured to medical attention."
The tragedy put the area into the national spotlight. Special press correspondents wired and phoned from "New York, Chicago and other distant places seeking full reports and wanting pictures of the wreck.
"Several children escaped the tragedy because they were kept from school to help with fern cutting, a local industry," the paper noted.
Three of the children who missed the bus were the grandchildren of Jennie Smith, who had four of her own children killed in the wreck.
Bus driver D.R. Niles "had reached the end of his route at Silver Pond Grove, south of Crescent City, and started on the road to school. The crossing was on a dirt sideroad, not far from the paved highway ..."
The wreck was quickly investigated and within an hour the train was on its way to Jacksonville. Four hours later, the engineer was driving another train back down the same route, according to a retrospective story on the tragedy written in 1994 in the Putnam County Courier-Journal.
Then-editor Al Krombach spent months researching the article and talking to people who remembered the incident.
The bus driver, who had been called one of the safest, was eventually found negligent by the coroner's jury. A grand jury said he shouldn't have had to cross the railroad tracks at Silver Pond. Neither the governor's office nor local authorities took any action.
Several survivors of the wreck still live in Crescent City.
"I remember the fog. I remember waking up alongside the track. I tried to stand up and my right leg buckled and I went back down," said Louise Hardee Radtke, 75. Then a third-grader, she was in a coma for three days, coming to at a local hospital in Palatka, 30 miles north of her home. She lost one sister in the wreck while another survived with slight injuries.
Her leg was broken and her knee crushed. Despite three operations, her knee was never the same.
"At 8 years old, you take it as it comes. I didn't want to go over railroad tracks after that, but then I didn't like going over bridges either. ... But I didn't have any problems going back to school," Radtke said.
Nellie McGrady Kelly recalls, "I spent my 11th birthday in the hospital." Another Crescent City native, she remembers "almost everything" about that day including "telling somebody in the ambulance I was in that my leg hurt."
On the ambulance ride to Palatka, Kelly was in the lap of a teacher, who was sitting on a stool and holding on to another student lying down. Kelly's sister and brother were killed. She spent eight weeks in the hospital with a compound fracture of her leg. "It was all busted up," she said. She didn't go back to school that year and the next year she left before Christmas.
"I guess I was just so upset I wasn't able to cope with that."
She remembers two friends who were seated across from her on the side of the bus hit by the train.
"One was hardly hurt at all and the other was killed. I think they were 14 or 15."
She remembers the bus driver in later years as "such an old loner, bless his heart.
"I never blamed him. It wasn't his fault," she said.
The headline on Krombach's news story probably said it all:
"The year without Christmas."
SubjectAuthorDate Posted
Thomas Smith 22 Mar 2000 12:00PM GMT 
Tom Smith 23 Mar 2000 12:00PM GMT 
Kristy 22 Nov 2004 4:26PM GMT 
kierannet 6 Jul 2013 10:48PM GMT 
bonnieblue_18... 18 Mar 2002 11:44PM GMT 
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