Nation’s Deadliest Traffic Crash
On Thursday, December 1, 1938, a yellow school bus lumbered down a narrow county road enroute to Jordan High School. Farrold Silox had driven the Bluffdale and Riverton route for the past three years. The 29 year old driver had memorized the names and address of all the children who rode his bus. The roads that morning were slippery, covered with a light dusting of snow. A low fog hung near the open bodies of water and depressions in the ground.
Delayed for over one hour, the Flying Ute, a Denver & Rio Grande Western freight train with 51 cars was northbound and was trying to make up for lost time. Farrold had crossed the rural railroad tracks several hundred times in the past three years. He knew the train schedules. He had never seen any trains on this crossing at this time of day. Farrold failed to see the Flying Ute – until the bus was already on the tracks.
The school bus was struck broadside and split in half. The largest portion of the bus was thrown 40 yards northwest of the crossing. Bodies of children were thrown on both sides of the tracks. The cab of the bus was carried on the front of the locomotive for a distance of 2,000 feet down the track. Several children and the bus driver were trapped inside.
It was the nation’s worst motor vehicle accident on record at that time. There were 38 students plus the driver on the bus. The bus driver and 25 children ultimately died from this tragic incident.
Patrolman Bob Howard was one of the officers who responded. “It was horrible,” Bob said. “Your heart was aching, but there was no time for remorse. We had a job to do. There were lots of children who were badly hurt and who would expire in short order if we didn’t keep our wits about us.”
As Patrolman Howard searched through the wreckage looking for survivors, he came across his niece and nephew. “I guess I was kind of numb from that point on,” he recalled. “As a patrolman you soon learn just how fragile life really is.”