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City to honor memory of those killed in Yuba City High bus tragedy

The bus lies on its crushed top after plunging nearly 30 feet from the Marina Vista Avenue freeway offramp May 21, 1976. (SACRAMENTO UNION / Courtesy)
The bus lies on its crushed top after plunging nearly 30 feet from the Marina Vista Avenue freeway offramp May 21, 1976. (SACRAMENTO UNION / Courtesy)
MARTINEZ, Calif. – Forty years ago this Saturday, May 21, 28 high school students and one adult were killed in Martinez after the bus they were riding in overturned from the Marina Vista off-ramp, landing on the roadway below.

The Yuba City High School a cappella choir was traveling from Yuba City to Orinda for a friendship day involving the choirs of the schools when the accident occurred. The trip was to have been a reward for the choirs’ year-long work.

When the bus left the freeway and entered the offramp, the brakes failed due to low air pressure. The bus, unable to navigate the turn at high speed, struck the rail and left the roadway, falling 21.6 feet and landing upside down. The roof of the bus was crushed to the bottom of the bus windows.

There were 52 souls aboard the bus that day, and of the 23 that survived, most were critically injured. They were rushed to three area hospitals as their parents traveled by car and plane to learn the fate of their children.

The accident remains the second-worst bus disaster in U.S. history, exceeded only by a 1963 train-bus collision in Chualar, California, which claimed the lives of 32 Mexican farmworkers.

The City of Martinez will remember those lost in the accident, in a remembrance ceremony this Saturday, 11 a.m., at the memorial site at the Martinez Marina. The program will include recollections and shared memories of the victims, a candle lighting and prayer. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP to (925) 372-3505 or rguidry@cityofmartinez.org.

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