On 5 Aug 1942, a bus bound for Greenville, MS, stopped at a railroad crossing in Crystal Springs, MS, for a passing freight train. The crossing included two sets of tracks. While waiting for the freight train to pass, the bus driver crept ahead onto the open track. Due to the crowded load of passengers and associated noise they were making, the bus driver was unaware of an approaching special troop train.
When the driver noticed the approaching train, he attempted to clear the track. It was too late. The train impacted the right side of the bus sending it into the air and tearing off the roof of the bus in the process. Of the 52 passengers onboard, 15 were killed. An additional 3 passengers were in critical condition and described as "near death", but ultimately survived.
The above photo courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives & History, the Hamilton Collection.
Of the 15 deceased, 4 were Aviation Cadets bound for Greenville Army Flying School. The deceased cadets were;
Richard H. M. Shinebarger's wife, the former Wilma Betty Hutcheson, was also killed in the accident.
Howard E. Redding states in a Veteran's History Project video interview that he and his friend Steve were also on the bus that was hit. They both survived relatively uninjured and proceeded to Greenville. Interestingly, they are not listed in the referenced newspaper articles on the matter. This may be due to Redding's account of a store owner taking them in and cleaning them up, then getting on their way to Greenville. During basic flying training Redding recalls that Steve didn't pass a check ride, thus washed out of pilot training and went on to navigator training.
Morgan T. Smith (Yankton, SD) was roommates with Geddie Roy Smathers at Dorr Field. Rather than taking the bus to Greenville, Smith drove by automobile. A decision that allowed him to go on to complete 96 missions over the hump in the China-Burma-India Theater and serve SD communities for the rest of his life following the war.
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