Tuesday marks 32 years since deadly bus crash in Alton

2 months 2 weeks 2 days ago Tuesday, September 21 2021 Sep 21, 2021 September 21, 2021 9:03 AM September 21, 2021 in News - Local

Tuesday marks 32 years since a bus crash in Alton took the lives of 21 students.

On Sept. 21, 1989, a Dr. Pepper truck crashed into a Mission CISD school bus, launching it into a caliche pit about 40 feet down.

There were 81 passengers on the bus. Twenty one didn't make it.

Edinburg Fire Chief Shawn Snider was a firefighter in Alamo at the time. He reported to the scene with the Alamo rescue boat, which would bring many students to safety.

"That's what we did on the front end,” Snider said. “We were just back and forth, back and forth, as many students as we could put on the boat and take to the shoreline."

Snider says they struggled to rescue victims because, back then, there were only two exits on a bus.

"We had to basically chop all the windows out so we could get a greater opening for the firefighters that were swimming inside the bus to recover the students," Snider said.

This one accident would forever change the way school buses were made in the U.S.

"There was bus changes in the United States that were actually from that accident,” Snider said. “Escape hatches out of the roof is something that I saw that transitioned. Windows that are actually able to remove."

The bus was filled with students from Mission High School and Mission Junior High School.

Schools across Mission CISD recognize the day every year, with Alton Memorial Jr. High School being dedicated to the lives lost that day. 

"Here at Mission High School, they are planning a wreath laying ceremony,” said Mission CISD spokesperson Craig Verley. “They'll be putting out ribbons with the name of the students at each of the trees that represent the students that were killed in the accident, so every campus does something a little different.”

And it's that same love from the community that Chief Snider will never forget.

"It was amazing to see the outpouring of emotion for the families that were there, the citizens that were supporting them and that's something that I'll always remember,” Snider said.

Students in Mission CISD also undergo bus safety training every year, where they are taught how to safely escape a bus in case of an emergency.

Correction: Mission Junior High School was not renamed Alton Memorial Junior High School following the accident. Alton Memorial Junior High School is dedicated to the memory of the students. 

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