'Forever young.' Rockland pauses to remember students killed in 1972 bus crash

A new plaque was unveiled in Rockland County Thursday morning to mark 50 years since the deadliest school bus crash in the state.

News 12 Staff

Mar 24, 2022, 11:50 AM

Updated 851 days ago

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A new plaque was unveiled in Rockland County Thursday morning to mark 50 years since the deadliest school bus crash in the state.
A ceremony was held at Congers Lake Memorial Park to mark the anniversary of the 1972 crash that killed five students and injured dozens more when a freight train hit a bus carrying Nyack High School students at the Gilchrest Road crossing.
The plaque carries a simple message - "In our hearts, these students will remain forever young" - and replaces a worn one from the '70s.
The crash happened just before 8 a.m. It split the bus in two, and part of it was dragged down the tracks more than 1,000 feet.
Some of the students died on the scene - kids between 14 and 18. Others died days and weeks later.
Many remember hurrying to the scene to find their friends but finding huge wreckage and pages of schoolwork that had flown all over.
The bus driver was eventually found at fault. He's been dead more than 20 years now.
The crash prompted several safety improvements. School buses are now required to stop at railroad crossings. Also, buses must have seat belts and drivers have to be better-qualified and trained. Barrier gates and warning lights, that weren't in place 50 years ago, now mark the spot of the crash.
William Thomsen survived the crash and spoke today how something so traumatic has actually led to some good in his life. "It's important for us to always remember those people and remember the impact on the families that went through this and continue to improve railroad crossing safety for our communities."


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