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Remembering Bus Crash That Left 27 Dead

By: Denny Trease Email
By: Denny Trease Email

On February 28, 1958, a school bus carrying 47 children ran off the road near Prestonsburg and plunged into the Big Sandy River. 26 children and the bus driver were killed. It was the worst school bus crash in American History.

A pick-up truck on that same stretch of Old Route 23 that day was stuck in the mud beside the road, and a wrecker had just arrived to pull it out.

The school bus collided with the wrecker, careened across the road and down a steep embankment into the river.

Rebecca Jarrell, now 85, lost her only two children in the crash: Bucky Ray 15, and Katie Carol 13. She says she has often wondered why some children were spared but hers were not.

"Wasn't I the mother I should have been. I've questioned that. But one thing is for sure. When I leave here, I can go be with them. I never thought I'd live 50 years after they was gone," said Jarrell

Not all of the grieving parents have made it 50 years since the crash. James and Virginia Goble, prior to their death, talked with 27 NEWSFIRST about the awful reality of losing all three of their children.

In a heart rendering 2001 interview, Virginia remembered another parent coming to her with the news of the accident.

"He said the bus went in the river, and I said 'what about the children?' I started to run out the door, and he said, don't run Virginia. It's too late," said Virginia Goble

71 days went by before the last body was found. With all kinds of boats still combing the river, James Goble actually found his oldest son's body himself.

He remembered, "When we round a curve in the river, I had a clear view up ahead of something floating on the water, and I said, Uncle Bill, I see my boy."

Judge Executive Doc Marshall, who was supposed to be on the bus that crashed, recently helped unveil a new monument to victims outside the old Floyd County Courthouse.

He says, "When I look at all these names, I see a picture, a face, an actual person."


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