Kentucky School Bus Tragedy Remembered 58 Years Later

Bus No. 27 is pulled from the Big Sandy River in March of 1958. Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office/Creative Commons Bus No. 27 is pulled from the Big Sandy River in March of 1958.

A former Kentucky state trooper, who later became a state school bus inspector, recalls responding to the scene of a school bus tragedy when 26 students and their driver died on Feb. 28, 1958, after plunging into a river, reports WKYT.

For the first time, Thomas Wright is talking about the pain he still feels when he and his fellow troopers arrived at the Big Sandy River near Prestonburg, Kentucky, after a school bus transporting 48 students on old U.S. Route 23 struck the rear of a wrecker truck, veered off the road and down an 80-foot embankment into the swollen waters of the Levisa Fork. The bus was then swept downstream and submerged.

"The kids in the river. You couldn't get them out of the bus. They went floating down the river so on and so on. We set nets up way down the river to catch them," said Wright.

The bus was finally located by Navy divers, and removed from the river 53 hours later.

The tragedy ranks as the third deadliest school bus crash in U.S. history, tied with the Carrollton, Kentucky, crash that occurred 30 years later some 190 miles to the northwest.

A memorial to the disaster sits in front of the old Floyd County Courthouse in Prestonsburg.

Last modified onTuesday, 01 March 2016 15:45