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Memorial to mark 1938 crash that killed 23 students

Published November 24, 2013 10:47 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

South Jordan is planning to unveil a memorial to commemorate the 75th anniversary of one of the most tragic events in the city's history: A 1938 train/school bus collision that killed 23 Jordan High School students and the driver of the bus.

The city is inviting the community to a ceremony and light refreshments at 1 p.m. on Monday Dec. 2 at the South Jordan Community Center/Heritage Park, 10778 S. Redwood Road.

On Dec. 1, 1938, a school bus was heading to Jordan High School through a dense winter storm as a loaded Denver and Rio Grande freight train rolled north toward Salt Lake City, according to information posted on the city's website.

Near the railroad crossing at 10200 South and 400 West, the driver stopped the bus. He opened the door to look beyond the thick fog, but did not see the 80-plus car "Flying Ute" train approaching at over 50 miles per hour.

At 8:43 a.m., the bus pulled slowly forward across the tracks. Upon seeing the bus, the train crew immediately applied the brakes, but the collision was inevitable.

The collision claimed the lives of 23 children and the bus driver. The 15 survivors faced a lifetime of serious physical injuries and emotional scars.

In the wake of the horrific crash, came railroad crossing laws, mechanical crossing arms and national regulations that are still in place today — including the mandatory requirement for bus drivers to not only stop at railroad crossings, but also to open their door and driver side window to look and listen for oncoming trains, according to the city's website.