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3 Killed, 40 Hurt as Train Hits Rockland School Bus


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CONGERS, N. Y., March 24—A

collision between a Nyack High
School bus and a freight train here

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this morning killed three high
school students and injured more
than 40 others, eight of them

The bus was split by the impact

with the 83‐car Penn Central
freight train. It was bent across the
front engine like a horseshoe and
pushed more than 1,000 feet,
spilling children, books and lunches
along the tracks.

A fireman, George Sandfield, who

was among the first at the scene,
with a crowbar, ropes and chains,
was left with a particularly vivid
March 25, 1972, Page 1
The New York Times Archives
“With all those kids scream. ing,”
he said, standing among shattered
sections of the bus, “I'll never forget
this one girl. She was pinned in the bus and her voice could tear your
heart out. I tell you, it drove me crazy. I wanted to tear that bus apart.”

Police Lieut. William Zeilich said the dead were:

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Robert Mauterer, 14 years old, of 671 Andover Road; Richard Macaulo,
18, of Huffman Road and James McGuinness, whose age was not
available, of 338A Svahn Drive. All were from Valley Cottage.

Of the eight Nyack High School students in critical condition, two were
sisters, Irene and Joan Ferrara, of 602 Gateway, Valley Cottage.

One of the injured, Mary Jane LiPuma, 16, of 658 Water's Edge, was
flown by helicopter from the hospital grounds to Columbia Presbyterian
Hospital in New York City, at the in sistence of her parents.

The police said the death toll would have been greater if residents in the
area had not volunteered assistance. At least one woman crawled under
the train to help the children. Station wagons were offered as
emergency ambulances.

A week ago, some residents pointed out, firemen, first‐aid workers and
other volunteers staged a drill on what to do in case of a collision
between a school bus and a car or truck. There was disagreement as to
whether the bus had stopped at the crossing. Some youngsters on the
bus said it had not stopped at all; others said it had just halted

The driver, Joseph Larkin, a moonlighting New York City fireman, was
said to have insisted that he had stopped the bus before trying to cross
the tracks.

Student Describes Crash

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Bill Wilkins, a 16‐year‐old student, one of the more than 40 taken to
Nyack Hospital, said:

“All of a sudden someone yelled, ‘train.’ I looked up and the train was
right there. I heard train brakes and pow! I wasn't trapped.”

State law requires that a bus come to a full stop not less than 15 feet
from railroad tracks and that the driver look both ways before
proceeding. Police Capt. Dwight Eisgrau, of the nearby town of
Clarkstown, who supervised much of the rescue work, said that a driver
must open and close the bus door before proceeding across tracks.

Investigators at the scene and residents near the tracks seemed agreed
that the train had obeyed safety regulations. The Rockland County
District Attorney, Robert R. Meehan, said he was sure the train did not
exceed the 30‐mile‐an‐hour speed limit here and that the engineer
sounded two long blasts and one short one on the train's whistie,
beginning 1,500 feet from the crossing.

The District Attorney said he would present information to a grand jury

in two or three weeks. He said he could not do it sooner because many
of the children he wanted to talk to were in the hospital.

All of the Investigators agreed that the road was dry when the collision
occurred at 7:56 A.M., as the eastbound bus started across the tracks at
Glichrest Road. The train was northbound and, according to the District

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Atorney had made a full stop three miles south of the accident before
continuing on the slight upgrade.

Although there is no gate or lights at either side of the tracks, there are
“stop” signs and warnings of a railroad crossing. Residents in the area
have asked that a gate be installed at either side of the tracks. There is
one at a more heavily traveled crossing about half a mile north of the
accident site.

At the Nyack Hospital, a woman, volunteer who was keeping out friends
of the injured and all but the closest relatives, observed:

“Now we'll probably get the gate at the crossing. Why is it you always
have to have a terrible tragedy before you can get action?”

Father Sees Injured Son

Within seconds of the crash, policemen from Clarkstown left for the
scene. State policemen took off by helicopter. The few emergency
firemen in the firehouse sped off in the truck, with others jumping
aboard as it passed by. Still other firemen drove to the scene in their
own cars.

Some parents had not yet left for work, and hurried to the scene.
Policemen and firemen were unable to restrain one father as he saw his
son being carried from the bus to a stretcher. He broke away and
followed his son to the hospital.

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Firemen and policemen pried away the impaled section of the bus from
the front engine, or crept into the shattered sections or beneath it, to
carry out youngsters. They also sprayed the bus with firepreventing

At Nyack Hospital, which recently opened a new wing, night workers

remained on duty and volunteers arrived early.

By 8:35 A.M., 39 minutes after the collision, the last of the high school
students had been taken from the scene. They were driven the three
miles to the hospital in about seven minutes. Since the hospital is across
the street from the high school, many of the students crowded around
the front of the hospital.

In the afternoon, they talked of escapes by fellow students. One recalled

that a girl had decided to walk the three miles to school this day.
Another told about two students who had decided to “play hooky.”

The engineer of the train, Charles Carpenter, a veteran of more than a

quarter of a century, kept telling questioners that the bus had appeared
in front of the train without warning. When asked why a train traveling
at his estimated 25 miles an hour took more than 1,000 feet to stop, he

“What can I do with a heavy freight train behind me?”

As parts of the bus were removed from the area, a policeman, walking
among fluttering pages of homework and mangled textbooks, spoke

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sharply to a young man apparently collecting ghoulish souvenirs.

“Do you have to do that?” he demanded. The young man dropped

whatever he had picked up.

A version of this archives appears in print on March 25, 1972, on Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline:
3 Killed, 40 Hurt as Train Hits Rockland School Bus. Order Reprints | Today's Paper | Subscribe


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