ALTON, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Thirty-two years ago today, 21 students died in an Alton bus crash.
The Alton bus crash is still one of the deadliest crashes involving a bus in state history and to this day the citizens of Alton remember it.
Baudelia Rojas was 14-years-old when the crash happened. Rojas wasn’t on the bus, she was already at school when it became apparent something was wrong.
“We did hear the sirens and everything, but we didn’t know what was going on,” Rojas said.
As first responders worked to get to the bus out of the water-filled caliche, Baudelia recalls the confusion and growing dread back at the school. Rojas said that teachers had “everybody go into the gym, we need to know if you’re here.”
Still, she and her classmates didn’t know what was going on, just that something had happened and “parents are calling in” to see if their children were at school.
Alton had a population of less than five thousand at the time of the accident, the flurry of activity that resulted from the crash was something Baudelia remembers well.
“I guess I was scared because everything was going on here in this little town and we didn’t think something like this would happen,” she said.
On top of her fear was sorrow from having lost a friend.
Maria Regalado was one of the 21 students who died in the accident and had grown up with Baudelia. Their families were close and Baudelia recalls the difficulty in visiting afterward.
It was “very hard, especially when I went to go visit her mom,” Baudelia said. “She just hugged me so tight and it was so hard. Cause she would say that we– that I reminded her of her daughter.”
Thirty-two years later the accident is still in the minds of the residents of Alton.
“This bus accident reminds us of, you know, things that can happen one do to the next. And losing as many students as we did that day as we did at that date is something that is very scary and we won’t ever forget it,” said Baudelia.