October 26, 1995 in Nation/World

Train Plows Into School Bus Five Students Die, 30 Hurt; Bus Was Stopped On Tracks

Associated Press

A commuter train ripped apart a school bus stopped on the tracks Wednesday as youngsters in the back rushed forward in terror at the sight of 620 tons of steel bearing down on them. Five students were killed and about 30 injured.

Some witnesses said the bus was trying to cross the tracks about 7:20 a.m. when it got caught at a red light behind a car and couldn’t make it all the way across. But others said there was no car ahead and the driver could have moved forward.

“You could see the terror in their eyes,” witness Coreen Bachinsky said. “You could hear the metal, the glass flying, the screams. It was very, very scary.”

The bus was taking the youngsters to 1,400-student Cary-Grove High School in Cary. The Chicago-bound express train was traveling between 50 and 60 mph and sheared the body of the bus off the chassis, spinning it around 180 degrees.

“From then on out, all you heard was screaming,” said Andrea Arens, 19, who was waiting for another train in this bedroom community nearly 40 miles northwest of Chicago, in a fast-growing commuter corridor at the edge of the city’s suburban sprawl.

Four students were pronounced dead at the scene and one died at a hospital. At least seven of the injured were in critical condition.

Taben Johanson, a 15-year-old who was sitting in his usual third-row seat on the bus, said the gate came down on the back of the bus and there was a car in front. Then he looked up and saw the train bearing down on them.

“I basically figured it out when all the kids were running forward, screaming,” he said.

Jim Homola, a carpenter driving his children to school, said he had been stopped behind the bus and saw the approaching train. “We started screaming, ‘Go! Go!”’ he said. “It was over in a matter of seconds.”

Homola said the bus driver “was in hysterics” afterward.

The driver, whose identity was not released, was taken to a hospital for evaluation.

She was filling in for the regular driver on the route, students said. The secretary of state’s office said the 54-year-old woman had been licensed to drive a school bus since 1987 and had a flawless driving record.

Mark Davis, a spokesman for Union-Pacific, which employs the train crew, said the engineer tried desperately to stop the train. “He slowed down. Then he applied the emergency brake, then he got on the horn,” Davis said.

The McHenry County coroner’s office identified the dead as Michael B. Hoffman, 14, Shawn P. Robinson, 14, Joseph A. Kalte, 16, Tiffany Schneider, 15, and Jeffrey J. Clark, 16.

Map of area

© Copyright 1995 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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