The 1958 Bus Disaster: 50 Years Later - Part 2

By: Steve Hensley Email
By: Steve Hensley Email

The Floyd County School Bus Crash in 1958 put the national spotlight on eastern Kentucky.

Average citizens and groups from across the region helped in the rescue effort from the National Guard to the Red Cross.

Media outlets from all over covered the story.

Songs were written about it and for one woman it became something she could never get out of her mind.

Ernest Sparkman of WSGS was describing the scene as brave rescue crews continued to search for a bus that plunged into the Big Sandy River, killing 27 people.

Jackie Branham Hall always felt a close connection to the bus accident.

It began with a dream she had when she was seven years old.

“I dreamed that a school bus was falling from the sky,” Hall said.

That dream would continue over the next six years, but the last one she had before the accident was different. It was the only time the bus hit the ground.

“When the bus wrecked it was like something hitting me between the eyes that morning. That dream just come right back, it was weird,” Hall said.

For decades, Hall kept adding things to a scrapbook about the accident. She was hoping one day someone could use the information to write a book. It turns out she was the one who ended up writing it.

“There's a lot of tears been shed over this because as you study this, as you work with it and you hear these stories, it just tears you apart,” Hall said.

Hall's book was published in 2004...

“Whenever anyone picks that book up and reads their story and sees their pictures, they live again for a little while,” Hall said.

It's a story that moved many people, at least six songs were written about the tragedy.

Jackie Branham Hall is working on a second book and a screenplay about the disaster.

To contact Jackie Branham Hall, the author of "Portrait of a Disaster"... call her at 606-263-4027 or write her at 6609 Spurlock Road, Prestonsburg, KY 41653.


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  • by Sally J on Nov 1, 2009 at 09:55 PM
    MY NAME IS JACKIE BRANHAM HALL, I AM THE AUTHOR OF PORTRAIT OF A DISASTER, THE PICTORIAL HISTORY OF THE 1958 SCHOOL BUS DISASTER.I HAVE HAD MANY CALLS REQUESTING A COPY OF MY BOOK. Because of this i feel i should explain to those wonderful people why i had to take my book off the market. THE PRINTER PUT MY BOOK FOR SALE ON THE INTERNET WITH OUT MY WRITTEN OR VERBAL PERMISSION.WATCH THE NEWS PAPERS FOR AN Announcment OF MY NEW REVISED AUTHORIZED EDITION.i HOPE TO HAVE IT FOR SALE AGAIN WITHIN SIX MONTHS.I am working on Book 2 THE WRITTEN STORY entitled THE GIRL WHO COULDEN`T FORGET.WE now have a Beautiful memorial at the accident site and another one in front of the FLOYD COUNTY COURT HOUSE. IN REMBERANCE OF 26 BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN WHO KISSED THEIR PARENTS GOOD-BY ONE FRIDAY MORNING THINKING ,TRUSTING THEY WERE SAFE AND LOST THEIR LIVES IN THE WORST SCHOOL BUS DISASTER IN U,S, HISTORY.46 YEARS OF RESEARCH HAS GONE INTO THIS TRILOGY. JBH
  • by Toni Tackett Location: Flatwoods Library on Mar 12, 2008 at 07:01 AM
    The Library is interested in purchasing a copy of your book " Portrait of a Disaster". Where can we find o copy? Thank you.
  • by Vernon Location: Kite,Ky on Mar 11, 2008 at 06:45 PM
    i was 6 1/2 when it happened and lived in allen at the time. i can still remember standing on the old swinging bridge that crossed over into goble roberts and watched the men in the boats search the river for the bus for days. i remember the huge spotlights on the old bridges in prestonsburg brought in to watch the river at night until all the victims were found and i can remember going to several wakes on bull and cow creek with my grandmother and grandfather, they knew a lot of the families involved. i went to school with alot of the kids who lost bro,sis, and cousins. it was a sad time and one i'll never forget and am reminded every time i pass the spot where the bus went in i also would like to see somthing erected to mark the location. thank you wymt for a great job on reporting on and remembering the tradgedy in east ky that day.
  • by debbie Location: belfry, ky on Mar 9, 2008 at 06:10 AM
    i was born in 57.. i have always heard about the bus accident..it breaks my heart that so many ppl died that day..i worry myself because i drive school bus for the last 13 years..its always on your mind..but i ask god to watch over me and the precious cargo i carry everyday.thanks for not letting us forget..which i dont think we could ..especially me ..im reminded everyday i start that bus up..thanks again..debbie white
  • by Troy Everidge Location: Marion,NC on Feb 28, 2008 at 12:17 PM
    I was just 18 years old and was in South Korea when I got a letter telling me about the bus wreck.I was raised in Knott county.And as long as I live, I wont forget that tragedy.you guys are doing a great job.
  • by Becky Location: Prestonsburg Ky. on Feb 28, 2008 at 09:07 AM
    Thanks wymt for your coverage of the 1958 bus wreck you did a fantastic job and you got the facts and the dates correct.unlike the lexington herald leader (they should have talked to the Hall lady). These family's have lived this nightmare for fifty years and when they saw the mistakes that were made in that article i am sure it was upsetting i know it was to me,I will give them credit for the pictures they were good.But wymt and staff hasdone a wonderful job covering this story thank you. I was a student at this school and was class mate to many of those that survived and that were lost.
  • by Angie on Feb 28, 2008 at 08:42 AM
    How can I purchase a copy of the book?
  • by Sharon J. Fannin Location: Johnson County on Feb 27, 2008 at 11:31 PM
    Thank you WYMT reporters and staff for the great job you are doing on the 1958 bus accident. I was 9 years old at the time and I still can remember bits and pieces of this terrible event. I live on the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River and I remember us watching the river and hoping we would not see anything. Some of the information you presented I did not know about. Mrs. Jarrell interview touched my heart deeply. You can see that she is still in pain and that hurt has nevered faded in these past 50 years. What sadden my heart the most was she felt like she was not a good mother and her children was taken from her. She was a good mother, you can tell by her story. I too would like to see Mrs. Hall's book. Thank you again for paying tribute to all these famlies that were involved. This is something that never will be forgotten. It will be passed down from generation to generation. Those 27 precious lives will always live on in the hearts of their famlies and us too.
  • by Loretta Location: Floyd County on Feb 27, 2008 at 05:05 PM
    It has been a long time coming and I think WYNT for the outstanding job of taking us back in time to this tragic event. I agree with Ms. Jarrell, a memorial or some kind of marker should be erected at the spot of the accident. I believe this should have been done before now. I was a high school student when this happened. I lost friends and a cousin in this accident and had a cousin to survive. It is a day in history that not be forgotten, but if the area where this happened is not marked those of us that know the exact spot will not be around to tell others and that is why I hope to see a momoral erected there.
  • by Margaret Location: Floyd Co. on Feb 27, 2008 at 09:20 AM
    I think that WYMT is doing an outstanding job covering this tragic event in Floyd County's history. I was not alive when this happen so the only accounts that I get of this event are from sources as WYMT and their cooperation with close participants of the event. I know it was very tragic but I would like to hear some first hand accounts so that we know the true and not just rumors, you know how bad people will spread rumors to make something sound worse. What could be much worse than this. I anticipated getting Ms. Hall's book and reading it because I have talked to folks who have recently purchased the book and it has even more information about the wreck that I had never heard. I agree with Ms. Jarrell (I believe) that a memorial or something should be erected at the spot where the bus went over. Before long there will be a generation that will have no idea where this happened so in tribute to those drown, there should be a marker so they shall always be remembered. Good work!
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