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Posted - 05/22/2009 :  11:53:43 AM  Show Profile  Visit JK's Homepage  Reply with Quote

Steve Hensley says that there haven’t been many interviews reduce him to tears.

When he talked to a woman who lost her only two children in a school bus crash in 1958 they were streaming down both of their faces.

Twenty-six students and the bus driver died in that crash in Floyd County, the worst school bus accident in U.S. history.

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A documentary is also in the works about the bus crash called "The Very Worst Thing." Click Here for Website

KY Bus Crash 50th Anniversary

Feb 27, 2008

Part I:
On February 28th, 1958 at 8:10 a.m. a school bus loaded with 48 elementary and high school students was headed to Prestonsburg on old Route 23.

For reasons still uncertain to this day, the driver did not see a tow truck in front of him that was getting ready to pull a vehicle out of a ditch, until it was too late. He crashed into it, crossed the road, sideswiped a parked car and rolled down an embankment into the swollen and cold Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River.

27 people, including the driver, died and 22 others survived. Judge Executive Doc Marshall will never forget that day. He was supposed to be on the bus, but it didn't make it to pick him up. He knew everyone that died.

A few months ago Marshall helped unveil a new monument to honor the victims in front of the old Floyd County Courthouse.

The road where this accident happened 50 years ago hasn't really changed that much with one big exception. The guardrail wasn't there to prevent the bus from plunging into the river.

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Posted - 05/22/2009 :  1:23:25 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
This is still a hard topic to talk about in Floyd County. I had an uncle on that bus, and that was his last day he ever went to school. He could never go back to school because of the trauma of losing a lot of his friends on it. I drive by the site everyday and still can't imagine how a lot of the parents coped with this tragedy.
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486 Posts

Posted - 03/04/2011 :  05:42:25 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
The documentary out for this horrible wreck is available on DVD now. You can go to and purchase it. There are 2 versions, one just has the documentary, and the second has the actual radio broadcast from WSGS radio and a question/answer session that occurred immediately after the screening of it.
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Posted - 03/09/2011 :  09:43:18 AM  Show Profile  Visit benzguy1986's Homepage  Reply with Quote
April 8, 2010
Parts from school bus tragedy possibly found
Verification of the recovered tire from crash still to come
By TIM PRESTON - The Independent
LANCER — The heavy cables used to haul the smashed school bus out of the cold river remain in place.
They have grown into the trees along the bank before drooping into the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy during the more than 50 years since the nation’s worst school bus tragedy.
Joseph Sammons, 69, who now owns the land and riverbank where the bus was hauled up, was among the capacity crowd at the Mountain Arts Center for the debut of “The Very Worst Thing,” a documentary film about the 1958 tragedy which remains a source of heartache for people with connections to Floyd County, whose families lost 26 children and the bus driver, then spent the months that followed waiting for news of bodies being recovered one at a time downstream.
Watching the documentary, Sammons remembered the old bus tire and the folding yellow bus door he covered over while landscaping his riverbank property to make a place for his grandchildren to ride their bikes. He decided to get in touch with the documentary’s director, Michael Crisp, and asked him to bring a metal detector to help recover what may be the only surviving pieces of the wreckage.
The actual fate of bus No. 27 is unclear. The bright yellow bus initially eluded rescue divers as it was concealed beneath the river’s surface. Those who were there, including U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials, clearly recall their relief at finally spotting the distinctive shape and being able to begin their recovery.
Once on land, most people say county officials had the wreckage hauled off and destroyed — dismantled and cut apart with torches. Others insist it was buried in a sandy area near the railroad tracks within a mile of where the bus hit the river, and there have been others who claim they’ve seen the sand-filled bus sitting relatively intact in a remote wooded area on private property.
“I had relatives and friends on that school bus. I knew the bus driver — he was kind of a mentor of mine. He had the best personality. I loved him. He was great,” Sammons said.
Speaking of the children who escaped the bus, Sammons said his friend Isaac Vanderpool helped many escape by getting a door open.
“If there was a child hero on that bus, it was Ike,” he said.
Sammons has lived along that spot in the river for about 20 years, and purchased the property from the man whose son witnesses say escaped the sinking bus, then drowned when he tried to go back and get his sister out of the doomed vehicle. The fact that the bus was hauled onto the family’s land may have been too much for them to bear, according to local opinion.
Film director Michael Crisp and co-producer Scott Hall accepted Sammons’ invitation to visit Floyd County and use a metal detector to search for the buried-over bus tire and wheel.
“Within five minutes we found the tire,” Crisp said. “It looked like it came right off of a school bus. It weighed more than 150 pounds when we pulled it up. After we got it washed off and cleaned up it weighed about 75 to 100 pounds.”
There are no distinct records to identify the Uniroyal tire, although five or six “old-timers” who worked on fleet vehicles have inspected the tire and wheel and confirmed it would be the type used on bus No. 27. The tires markings, as well as a copper valve stem, reveal it as a type of wheel that hasn’t been used for about 50 years. The “split rim” or “spider rim” wheel the tire is mounted on would also be typical for school bus use, Crisp has been told.
Crisp said his panel of “old-timers” told him the rim itself was considered a valuable bit of metal, and found it odd that anyone would have left it where it lay on the riverbank ... unless it was connected to the tragedy. Several witnesses confirmed cables were first attached to the front axle of the bus, and pulled part of the front suspension away from the main wreckage. A second effort to haul the bus out of the water was successful.
Once cleaned, Crisp said the amazingly intact artifact also revealed a hole roughly the size of a quarter. “It has a really big puncture hole in it,” Crisp said. “Depending on if it was a front or back tire, it makes you wonder if a blowout was part of what happened.”
Positive verification of the tire as a piece of the tragic bus will not be easy, Crisp said.
“We have been working on that night and day,” he said. “We are 90 to 95 percent sure this is the tire from that bus.”
After scanning hundreds of images and hours of video about the bus crash, Crisp said he immediately recognized the site where the bus was pulled out of the river, based on the photos of the recovery.
“It is eerie. Those original cables are still in those same trees. They’ve half-grown into the trees and then go drooping down into the river,” he said. “I’ve looked at all of the photos from 1958 and these are definitely those cables.”
Crisp and Sammons hope to take their metal detectors back to the riverbank to look for the yellow, folding bus door believed to be hiding vertically beneath the ground a few feet from where they found the bus tire.
Crisp said he will consider hauling the old bus tire to Ashland for the May 23 showing of “The Very Worst Thing” at the Paramount Arts Center, although he admits it is a cumbersome object to transport.
“Right now that’s 50/50. If there’s a huge demand to see it, we will make arrangements to get it there,” Crisp said.
“The Very Worst Thing” will be shown May 23 at Paramount Arts Center in Ashland. For more information, visit
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