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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  • by DON Helvey Location: TAYLOR MI. on Feb 29, 2008 at 06:42 AM
    IM FROM PIKEVILLE.I WAS AT THE LOCATION WHEN THE BUS WAS PULLED OUT OF THE WATER WITH BODIES HANGING OUT OF THE WATER I WILL NEVER FORGET THAT DAY
  • by Me! Location: Ky on Feb 29, 2008 at 06:03 AM
    I sat and watched the news last night and cried my eyes out. This is such a terrible tragedy. My heart broke for the parents interviewed. I can't even begin to imagine the pain all those people had to deal with. So sad.
  • by Recca Location: kentucky on Feb 28, 2008 at 06:02 PM
    I remember hearing my grandparents sing a song that was made about that crash. Really bring tears to your eyes.
  • by Bud Hill Jr. Location: Mt. Washington IN on Feb 28, 2008 at 05:55 PM
    I wasn't even born until 1978 but a story like this will go on forever. I simply cannot imagine how much pain and grief that day inflicted on so many people. I know all things happen for a reason and I also trust that GOD knows what He's doing. Therefore we all must live each day like it's our last day and be prepared for our final breath.

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