Survivor of 1977 deadly bus crash relives what happened

1977-1978 Vallivue Senior High yearbook

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by Scott Evans

Bio | Email | Follow: @ScottEvansKTVB

KTVB.COM

Posted on December 5, 2013 at 7:08 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 10:02 PM

BOISE – It's extremely rare for a student to die while riding in a school bus to or from school. Those statistics hold true nationwide and are even more rare in Idaho.

In the past 44 years across Idaho, there have been two deadly accidents resulting in three deaths. The most recent accident we have record of, came in the 70s.

The accident happened on October 17, 1977 on a road that runs along the southern part of Lake Lowell.

Even though this accident happened 36 years ago, those involved vividly remember what happened.

Emmy Lou Rogers was in second grade when she stepped onto the bus holding students of all grades in the Vallivue School District.

"I go to the back of the bus, and the high school boy that I tried to sit with had his instrument on the seat, and he wouldn't let me sit with him," remembered Rogers. "He said, 'Go sit somewhere else.' So I sat in the very front right seat."

Then, on a curve in the road, the driver of a dump truck was temporarily blinded by the sun. He crossed the center line and smashed into the bus, ripping open the bus like a tin can.   

A picture sent to KTVB of the bus accident, as shown in the 1977-1978 Vallivue Senior High yearbook, shows just how bad the accident was.

"When the dump truck hit the bus there was just confusion, and there's dust and stuff and all of a sudden you're at a different angle," remembered Rogers. "The girl next to me was screaming, of the brother and sister that I was sitting with, she was screaming. It turns out that her arm had been broken."

Rogers escaped the accident with a torn dress, but she was so close to a different outcome.

"The person that was killed in this incident was the boy that would not let me sit with him. So I'm alive because he said no, for whatever reason," said Rogers.

The accident sent four kids to the hospital, two of them, 14-year-old Patrick Larimer and 15-year-old Stephen Hennis later died from their injuries.

Now, having lived through that tragedy, Rogers offers advice to the parents of the kids who are going through this tragedy.

"Sorry, doesn't begin to scratch what I feel for everybody who's touched by this,” Rogers said. “It is just, you put your kid on a school bus, and you're not thinking this could possibly happen. You're thinking about going home and starting a load of wash or going to work or the Christmas shopping you have to do. This is not even anywhere a blip on the horizon, so first off I feel so very much for them, but please talk to somebody. Don't hold it in.”

The other accident on record that took the life of a student while riding a school bus happened in Boise in 1969. In that accident, one boy was killed and 60 others were hurt.

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