WKYT - Floyd - Headlines

Home movies surface showing aftermath of 1958 bus crash

By: Steve Hensley Email
By: Steve Hensley Email

PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (WYMT) - The images are haunting but give us a real sense of what it was like in the days before and after the worst school bus accident in U.S. history.

For the first time, we are seeing video of the Floyd County school bus after it was pulled out of the Big Sandy river nearly 55 years ago.

It happened on February 28th, 1958. The bus was carrying 48 elementary and high school students when it plunged into the river near Prestonsburg.

26 children and their driver died... 22 students survived.

Several survivors and others connected to the tragedy began telling their stories to filmmaker Michael Crisp in 2009 for a documentary called "The Very Worst Thing."

It debuted for the first time at the Mountain Arts Center in 2010.

About a month ago, Crisp was at the Jenny Wiley Festival when a man approached him with a DVD he thought Crisp should have.

"I went back to the hotel and as I watched the footage that he gave me, tears were in my eyes, I was emotional and I was calling everyone involved in the film and letting them know that we had essentially found the holy grail filmmaking wise," said Crisp during a recent taping of Issues and Answers on WYMT.

The home movies revealed scenes of happier times before the crash, the search and rescue effort and the heartbreaking image of the mangled bus after it was pulled from the river.

"One of the things that sends chills down your spine is seeing the Floyd County signage and the lettering on the side of the bus," said Crisp.

Those images and many more will now be added to the documentary for future screenings.

We asked Crisp what he hoped people would take away from the film.

"Cherish the people that you love, care about them, because you only have a few years with them and that's the one thing I keep seeing every time I watch the film." said Crisp.

The first screening with the newly discovered footage will be on Friday, December 21st at the Sipp Theatre in Paintsville.

Crisp hopes the documentary will continue to educate people about the tragedy... while keeping the memories of those who perished alive.

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