Cudmore: Tragedy at the bus stop

PHOTOGRAPHER:

A graduate of Amsterdam’s Vrooman Avenue Elementary School, Nancy Booth was in ninth grade when she died.

Her mother had died in 1942 when Nancy was about seven.  Her father lived in Miami Beach, Florida.  Nancy had a sister, Louise Booth, who was one year older. 

Nancy was being raised by her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. George Tetradis, at 62 Edward St. on Reid Hill.  Her grandmother, also named Nancy Booth, lived in Amsterdam. 

Shortly after 8 a.m. on Nov. 29, 1949, a cold light rain was falling on Amsterdam’s Guy Park Avenue.  The street was slippery as students arrived for class at the former Theodore Roosevelt Junior High School. 

A city bus owned by Vollmer Bus Lines and driven by Ian G. Bullock stopped on the north side of the street.  Three female students exited through the front door. 

Bullock, who lived at 485 Guy Park Ave., later said he saw two of the girls run in front of the bus toward the school on the south side of the street.  He assumed the third student had walked to the rear to cross the street behind the bus.

Frank A. Swan of 311 Guy Park Ave. had stopped his car on the south side of the street so his two children could go into the school.  Swan saw three girls start running across the street in front of the bus.

One girl stumbled, fell to one knee and her school books scattered.  She tried to “regain her feet” but fell face down about five feet in front of the large vehicle. 

Two of the girls made it across the street: Mary Jane Natale of 51 James St. and Jean Cincotta of 42 Reid St.  Natale screamed when she saw their friend Nancy Booth slip, regain her balance, then slip and fall again as the bus started to move forward. 

Swan said, “The prostrate child had no time to arise before the bus started as she lay with her hands curled over her head.”

Swan’s windows were rolled up and he didn’t hear the scream.  He saw one wheel of the vehicle rise as it struck the girl. 

Bus driver Bullock heard the scream and felt or heard a thud.  He stopped the bus, got out of the vehicle and found Nancy lying in the street behind the bus.  Bullock hurried to a nearby business, called police for an ambulance and called the bus company.

The 14-year old child was taken to Amsterdam City Hospital where she died an hour and a half later.

A crowd attended services at Perillo Funeral Home and St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church.  Students from junior high and senior high, where Nancy’s sister Louise was a student, sent flowers and were among the many mourners.  Burial was at St. Michael’s Cemetery.

Coroner F.F. Pipito issued an initial ruling of accidental death.  However, District Attorney Charles Tracy insisted on an inquest.  Coverage of the inquest testimony in The Recorder was the basis for details of the tragedy used in this story. 

After the inquest, Dr. Pipito issued another ruling of accidental death and exonerated bus driver Bullock.

The Recorder editorialized that Bullock’s “conduct both before and following the accident was faultless, and it is well that he is absolved of any misdirected blame.”  The editorial also stated there was no “reason to believe that the unfortunate victim was any more careless than thousands of other youngsters who travel to and from local schools daily.”

Nancy’s sister Louise married Gerald Bornt some time after graduating from high school.  Over 300 people attended her bridal shower. 

Categories: Life & Arts

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