Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Spokane Indians Bus Crash - June 24, 1946

Seven of Spokane Ball Team Die in Bus Crash
Nine Hurt in Plunge Down Steep Slope
Tragedy Strikes Indians Of W. I. League
While On Way to Play Series With Bremerton
SEATTLE, [Tue.] June 25 (AP) — Survivors of a mountain bus wreck which took the lives of seven Spokane Western International league baseball players and injured nine other persons Monday night said Tuesday an unidentified "wrong side" driver caused their chartered bus to leave the highway and plunge down a precipitous hill.
I saw the headlights coming toward us on the wrong side of the road," Levi McCormack, 33-year-old Spokane outfielder, told newsmen at Harborview county hospital. "The road was slippery. Our driver applied his brakes. We swerved across the road into the guardrail. We went through. We went down. I've never heard such hell. I don't know why we didn't smash the other driver. It might have been better."
Ben Geraghty, 31, a second baseman, corroborated McCormack's account.
"I saw the lights coming," he said. "The car was on the wrong side. "We either tried to miss it or skidded. I don't know. I went out a window too quick to tell."
The accident occurred at 8 p. m. (PST) on a straight stretch of road four miles west of the Cascade mountain summit, on Snoqualmie Pass highway, about 50 miles east of Seattle.
The bus, taking the team from Spokane to Bremerton, for a baseball series, smashed through guard rail cable and caught fire as it hurtled down a steep slope.
The driver and eight other player were injured, several critically.
One survivor described the victims as being "scattered all over the hill."
Dead Listed
Identified as dead are:
First Baseman Vic Picetti, of San Francisco, who formerly played with Oakland and was described as "the most promising young player on the Pacific coast last season." He died en route to a Seattle hospital.
George C. Risk, 27, infielder from Hillsboro, Ore.
Frederick T. Martinez, an infielder from San Diego.
Manager Mel Cole of Wenatchee;
Bob Kinnaman, former Washington State college pitcher from Brooklyn, Wash.;
Outfielder Bob James of Tempe, Ariz.;
Outfielder Bob Patterson of San Francisco.
Three of the casualties were reported in poor or critical condition in hospitals. They were;
Driver Burned
Glen Berg, 24, of Spokane, the bus driver, who was burned severely; Christ Hartje, 30, San Francisco, one-time Brooklyn catcher, severely burned; George Lyden, Tensed, Idaho, a pitcher, head injuries and burns.
The others injured were;
Levi McCormack, former Seattle and Portland outfielder, head injuries; Richard Powers, Oakland, head injuries and possible neck fracture; Erwin Konopka, Moscow, former University of Idaho catcher, head injury; Benjamin Garaghty, Livingston, N. J., formerly with Sacramento and Indianapolis, head lacerations; Peter Barisoff, Los Angeles, cuts and bruises (released from hospital) ; Darwin (Gus) Hallbourg of Boston, burned on pitching hand and arms.
Estimates of the distance of the drop ranged from 300 to 500 feet. The burning bus landed upright. An hour later it was only a twisted steel skeleton.
Darkness settled over the scene shortly after the accident and rescue activities were difficult up the steep slope in the darkness guided by flashlights and flares.
Clothes Burned Off
The more seriously injured had their clothes burned off and one witness said the seared skin on the worst cases was hanging loose.
Some of the victims were thrown clear of the tumbling bus and injured on the jutting rocks.
Garaghty, who said "I guess I'm pretty lucky," said:
"I was thrown right out a window. I took the window frame right with me. I remember flying out the window, but I must have been knocked out because I don't remember landing."
Hallbourg said he was knocked senseless, "came to" inside the flaming wreckage and dived out a window.

SPOKANE, June 25 — Owner Sam W. Collins of the Spokane Indians baseball club said Tuesday he expected the club would finish its season despite the bus accident which took the lives of seven players because he believed "the boys themselves would want the game continued."
Collins spent the better part of Monday night personally notifying families of the players who died or were injured when their chartered bus plunged down a hillside in the Cascade mountains.
The club owner was so grief-stricken Monday night that he said he had been able to think of little else but the tragedy. "The main thing now," he said, "is to see that all are notified and that the boys' wives are taken care of."
Games scheduled this week and next with Bremerton and Yakima will be cancelled, Collins said, but he predicted a meeting of directors of the Western International league will beheld within four or five days to see what arrangements could be made to provide players for the Spokane club.

SPOKANE — Following is the baseball background of the seven members of the Spokane Indians baseball club killed in a bus accident in the Cascade mountains Monday night.
Manager Mel Cole, 25, Wenatchee, catcher. Named as manager the day before the season opened upon release of ex-big leaguer Glen Wright. Previously played with El Paso, Texas; Joplin, Mo., and Tacoma and Wenatchee.
First baseman Victor Picetti, 18, San Francisco, formerly played with Oakland and was described as the most promising young player on the Pacific coast last season."
Shortstop George C. Risk, 25, Hillsboro, Ore., previously with army service league at Salt Lake
City for three years and also played at Pacific University, Forest Grove, Ore.
Second Baseman Frederick T. (Marty) Martinez, 24, San Diego, Calif., last with Landis in the North Carolina State league. Also played with Americus in the Georgia-Florida league.
Pitcher Robert E. Kinnaman, 27, Brooklyn, Wash. Played with Oakland Oaks of Pacific Coast league this season. Earlier he was with Twin Falls, Idaho, of the Pioneer league, Washington State College and the Spokane Indians.
Right Fielder Robert James, 24, Tempe, Ariz. Played with Idaho Falls, Idaho, of the Pioneer league in 1941.
Outfielder Robert Paterson, 22, San Francisco. Played a short time with Oakland of Pacific Coast league this season. Previously with Idaho Falls of Pioneer league.
The seriously injured:
Catcher Chris Hartje, 30, San Francisco. Last played with Syracuse, N. Y., earlier was with Montreal, Brooklyn Dodgers, Kansas City and Oakland,
Pitcher George Lyden, 22, Tensed, Idaho. Formerly with a navy team at Memphis, Tenn., and with the Spokane Indians in 1942.

Three of Spokane Team Avoid Ill-Fated Bus
SEATTLE, June 25 — Three Spokane baseball players unwittingly escaped injury or death on Monday, two of them because they made other plans and a third because other plans were made for him.
Pitchers Milt Cadinha and Joe Faria decided to drive to the coast with their wives in Faria's automobile so they did not ride in the doomed team bus.
Third Baseman Jack Lohrke, who has been hitting a lusty .362 while with Spokane on a 24-hour recall basis from San Diego of the Pacific Coast league, was informed of his recall while on the bus. He left the bus at Ellensburg, within 50 miles of the crash scene and headed back to Spokane to get his gear together for the trip to San Diego.

Late Flashes
SEATTLE, June 25 (AP)—The death list in the flaming wreck of a chartered bus reached eight Tuesday as one man died in a hospital 16 hours after the bus carrying Spokane's Western International league baseball team plunged down a mountainside high in the Cascades. George Lyden of Tensed, Ida., a pitcher, was the eighth victim.

Spokane's Baseball Team Wiped Out in Bus Wreck
Eight Ball Players Killed, Seven Hurt in Flaming Dive Down Steep 500-Foot Ravine
United Press Sports Writer
SPOKANE, Wash., June 25. (UP) — A chartered bus careening off a rain-slick mountain pass highway last night carried eight professional baseball players to their death and injured seven teammates and the bus driver, virtually eliminating the Spokane club of the Western International league from competition today.
It was the worst tragedy in baseball history and possibly all of sports history and possibly in all of sports history. In no other single accident has an entire team been virtually wiped out.
The special bus, carrying all but three of the Spokane team, plunged off a hairpin curve at the 3,400 foot level of treacherous Snoqualmie Pass and tumbled flames to the bottom of a 500-foot ravine.
But League President Robert B. Abel said the stricken club would "definitely" remain in the W.I.L. "It's too early to tell but we'll reorganize the Spokane Indians somehow," he said.
The Indians, a farm club of the Pacific Coast League's Oakland club, was bound for Bremerton Wash., for a crucial series with the fourth-place Bremerton Blue-Jackets. It was only one game behind the Blue-Jackets and 5½ games out of first place, held by Salem, Ore.
Able said he would confer with Sam Collins, Indians owner, either in Seattle or Spokane later today to map tentative plans to meet the emergency.
Remainder Play On
He said while there was no league rule to cover such a situation, the remaining clubs will play "as scheduled."
Bremerton, he said, would remain idle this week "until we have a chance to gather up loose ends and make definite plans."
The crash came in a drizzle and plummeted the flaming bus down the steep muddy bank, hurling one ball player through the roof. The bus tore away 100 feet of guard rail.
Burned to Death
At the bottom of the ravine, the injured — some of them still afire — scrambled out of the shattered windows or were unable to move and were burned to death. Only the charred framework of the wreck remained today.
Rescue squads led by state highway patrolmen were forced to slide down a rope to reach the scene of the flaming pyre.
Two pitchers and a third baseman of the club escaped possible death because of circumstances.
Pitchers Milt Kadinha, 24, and Joe Faria, 25, drove to Bremerton in their own automobiles with their wives.
Third Baseman Jack Lohrke, who was recalled yesterday by the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League, left the bus at Ellensburg, Washington, to board a train for California.
Dead were:
Bob Kinnaman, 28, Brooklyn, Wash., pitcher, Washington State
college player, pitched for Spokane in 1940 and 1941, then joined the army, serving 29 months overseas. Joined Oakland this spring and optioned to Spokane.
Bob Paterson, 23, San Francisco, Calif., outfielder. Served three years in the coast guard, signed with Oakland and optioned to Spokane.
Mel Cole, 25, Sacramento, Calif., catcher-manager. With Tacoma in 1938 and Wenatchee during the 1939-1940 season. Enlisted in the navy and played with the Pasco, Wash., flyers, 19 months overseas.
George Lyden, 22, Tensed, Ida., pitcher. Died of head injuries and serious burns at King County's Harborview hospital.
George Risk, 23, Hillsboro, Ore., shortstop, Pacific University, Oregon. Entered army in 1942, discharged 1945. Played for army teams at Salt Lake City.
Fred Martinez, 23, San Diego, Calif., right fielder. Played with the Junior American Legion team for three years. Went to Americas in the Georgia-Florida League. Three years in the navy, playing ball at Hawaii. Discharged November, 1945.
Victor Picetti, 19, San Francisco, first baseman. American
League Junior baseball and semi-pro. Went directly to the Pacific Coast League. Voted most promising player in the Western International League this spring.
Bob James, 25, Tempe, Ariz., outfielder. Semi-pro baseball in Phoenix, Ariz. Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League. Discharged from the navy in the fall of 1945. Optioned to Spokane from Binghampton, N. Y, in the Eastern League.
Injured were: Irv Konopka, 27, Moscow, Ida., catcher, unsatisfactory condition with head injuries; Levi McCormack, 32, Lapwai, Ida., left fielder, unsatisfactory condition with, head injuries; Benjamin Geraghty, 31, Livingston, N. J., second baseman, satisfactory condition with head cuts; Chris Hartje, 30, San Francisco, critical condition with first and second degree burns; Peter Barisoff, 24, Spokane, pitcher, minor injuries; Richard Powers, 25, Spokane, pitcher, head injuries; Gus Hallbourg, San Francisco, pitcher, minor injuries; Glen Berg, 30, Spokane, driver of the bus, cuts and minor injuries.

[below is a different version from the UP wire, likely for early afternoon editions]
8 Ball Players Are Killed In Bus Accident
SNOQUALMIE, Wash., June 25.—(UP)—Pitcher George Lyden, 22, today became the eighth victim of the tragic bus crash which killed seven of his Spokane Western International Baseball League teammates last night and injured eight others.
Lyden, hauled last night from the wreckage of the chartered bus, which careened off a narrow mountain road in the rain and smashed over a 500 loot enbankment, suffered head injuries and serious burns.
He died at 12:30 P. M. (PST) in King County's Harborview Hospital.
The special bus, carrying all but three of the Spokane, Wash., Western International League team, pitched off a hairpin curve at the 3,400 foot level of this treacherous mountain pass and ripped through 100 feet of guard rail before it rolled down the steep, muddy bank.
Hurled Through Roof
The flaming bus crashed to a stop at the bottom of a ravine as the injured scrambled from windows and split sections. One of players was hurled through the roof as the bus started its fatal plunge.
The front door was torn off during the descent and an axle and two wheels were found 100 feet from the charred wreck.
Bound for Bremerton, Wash., for a crucial series, the team was virtually eliminated from the WIL eight team league. An Oakland Pacific Coast League farm club, Spokane was one game behind fourth place Bremerton and five and one half games behind first place Salem, Ore., in league standings.
Patrolemen Lead Rescue
Rescue squads, led by state highway patrolmen, roped down the slippery incline to the flaming pyre with the aid of red emergency flames and spotlights which cast a garish light over the tragic scene.
The dead:
Victor Picetti, 19, first baseman, San Francisco, unmarried.
George Risk, shortstop, Hillsboro, Ore., married.
Fred Martinez, 23, right fielder, San Diego.
Mel Cole, 25, catcher, Sacramento, married.
Bob Paterson, 23, outfielder, San Francisco, married.
Bob Kinnaman, 23, pitcher, Brooklyn, Wash.,
Bob James, 25, outfielder, Tempe, Ariz.
George Lyden, 22, pitcher, Tensed, Idaho.
Among those injured were two men from California. They are Chris Hartje, 30, catcher, San Francisco, in a critical condition with first and second degree burns, and Gus Hallbourg, pitcher. Sun Francisco, minor injuries.


Anonymous said...

An uncle of mine was on that bus. God bless them all.

Anonymous said...

My Dad made several trips for Shepard Ambulance taking injured players back to the hospital in Seattle.

Anonymous said...

My dad was one the state troopers at the scene. I remember he didn't get home until the afternoon of June 26.