Community remembers Alton bus crash 31 years later
ALTON - Monday marks the 31st anniversary of the Alton school bus crash that claimed the lives of 21 children. Some local first responders describe it as the worst school bus accident in the history of Texas.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS met with survivor, Alexander Reece De Leon, who says he remembers the accident like it happened yesterday. “We were waiting for the bus. I was 17, just turned 18 and all I remember was goofing around like a normal day,” he said.
However, it was a normal day turned deadly at the intersection of 5 Mile Road and Bryan Street.
The air brakes in a beverage truck failed, causing the heavy vehicle to slam twice into the Alton school bus.
At the time, the bus was full of middle and high school children.
Alexander says he held on to the window and his sister. He was able to push his sister to safety first and climb out second.
“You could see faces of kids you know trying to get out. We start opening the latches from inside the windows that were open,” he explained.
The bus was completely submerged in water with children still inside. Alexander recalls when his friend David jumped back inside the bus to save his brother, but never made it out alive.
“You try to put it away, but when the day comes like today...you feel a little sad because, maybe they had a better future, you know? Than my own. Maybe they had something planned for them. It’s God’s will I guess, no?” he shared.
Former Mission Fireman, Rick Saldana, calls it the worst accident he had ever seen in his career. “There were a lot of families that were there, they were crying, they were trying to account for their children, Saldana said.
Since the accident guard rails have been installed around caliche pits in Valley rural areas to avoid the possibility of future accidents.