Jim Kershner’s This day in history
From our archives, 65 years ago
One of the worst accidents in Northwest history occurred on this date in 1945. A school bus full of Chelan children plunged from a highway into Lake Chelan.
The bus driver and 15 children died. Five children and a 37-year-old woman – who had caught a ride on the bus into town – survived by escaping out of a back window.
The accident occurred after snow built up on the windshield of the bus, preventing the driver from seeing. He pulled off the road but apparently failed to see an outcropping of rock. The bus was knocked sideways across the road, down the embankment and rolled twice before it came to rest, upright, on a large boulder. The front end was underwater, but a 17-year-old girl managed to kick out the back window. Five children and the woman made it out of the bus.
But at that moment, the bus teetered and slipped off the rock into 200 feet of water.
A 16-year-old girl was credited with dragging most of the survivors out of the water. A 13-year-old boy scrambled up the bank, flagged down motorists, and called for help on a U.S. Forest Service emergency telephone box.
Five bodies were found in the bus when it was finally hoisted from the lake. Most of the other bodies were never found.