Victims of the Worst Bus Crash in the Nation’s History Will Be Remembered on Saturday in Yuba City

May 10, 2013 8:54 am · 27 comments

Almost 37 years ago, on May 21, 1976, 28 students and one teacher from the Yuba City High School choir died after their bus crashed and fell 30 feet to the ground on the Marina Vista offramp on southbound Interstate-680 in Martinez.

The driver apparently lost control of the bus and crashed while negotiating a sharp turn on the offramp shortly after the bus’ brakes failed.

The crash remains the deadliest bus crash in the history of the United States.

The creators of the Yuba City High School Memorial sent the following information to, asking that we let the public know about a memorial coming up tomorrow in Yuba City, about 45-minutes north of Sacramento.

Here is the information:

Saturday May 11 at 10:00 am at the Memorial Monument near Yuba City Hall on Veterans Memorial Drive….a brief remembrance ceremony with traditional balloon release and reading of names.

We are planning a special expression of respect for any and all who would also like to join us afterwards: We will be placing silk arrangements (in Yuba City High School Honker colors, of course) at the grave-sites of all the choir members at rest in nearby Sutter Cemetery. Please consider joining us in both locations, we would love to have you there.

photo credit: Facebook – Yuba City High School Choir Memorial in Martinez

KooKooKaChoo May 10, 2013 at 9:03 AM

I remember when this happened. My girlfriend’s mother was an ER nurse and thought I was one of the kids brought into the ER after it happened because I looked like one of the victims and used to ride a bus to high school in Martinez.

It was just a horrible day.

debbiedo May 10, 2013 at 9:36 AM

i was driving and had to pull over so many many firetrucks, police, and ambulance went pass me, I was going to follow them sure glad I didn’t knew there must be something really really bad that happened very sad day indeed RIP!!

The Mamba May 10, 2013 at 9:39 AM

Did anyone survive? May 10, 2013 at 9:44 AM

@The Mamba, yes, I think about 22 people survived, including the bus driver.

ClaytonMama May 10, 2013 at 9:59 AM

I remember it well. A dear family friend was out sick that day and not able to make the trip and thus she is still alive and with us today.

Chicken May 10, 2013 at 10:00 AM

My grandfather worked at shell oil refinery and was one of the first on the scene…. He had a hard time talking about it as the years went on. RIP

Big Dog May 10, 2013 at 10:19 AM

This accident was horrific, and many of the “old timer” firefighters that responded to this incident had nightmares for years, and describe this as by far the worst thing that they have ever faced on the job. This accident resulted in the development of the current County Multi Casualty plan that is in place today. That plan saved countless lives in disasters after this event including: the Sun Valley Mall Plane Crash, the Waterworld Accident, and several hazardous materials incidents including the General Chemical Leak in Richmond. There is a nice memorial for these victims at the Martinez Waterfront Park created by the Firefighters that responded to the bus crash. See the SF Gate article here:

Jim May 10, 2013 at 10:33 AM

I remember this…I was only in 8th grade but it was such big news and we lived in another state at the time…never really heard the whole story…but how sad

Jojo Potato May 10, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Every time I take that ramp, I think about this tragedy. So sad for everyone.

livininconcord May 10, 2013 at 11:34 AM

I thought there was talk back then about changing that exit. Never got done

katy May 10, 2013 at 12:00 PM

I was in high school in Martinez when this happened. The Red Cross was asking everyone to donate blood. I will never forget this as long as I live. So tragic.

almondgirl May 10, 2013 at 12:07 PM

I remember this. The choir was on their way to Miramonte High School in Orinda for Friendship day. I grew up in Orinda and remember the accident and how totally shocked the town and school were. Such a sad time.

Karamil May 10, 2013 at 12:31 PM

I remember it every time I see that off ramp in Martinez. I was in High School at the time, and in the High School Choir just like they were. I was at home sick in bed listening to the radio and was horrified as the death count kept going up and up as the updates kept coming in. Our Choir also went on bus trips just like they were on. I remember thinking this could of been me. Such a sad time! They did go in and change the whole off ramp so it was no longer such a sharp curve.

anon May 10, 2013 at 1:31 PM

What do those + symbols signify next to some names?

Concordite May 10, 2013 at 1:42 PM

I think of this incident every time I pass that off ramp.

pine hollow band member May 10, 2013 at 1:55 PM

I remember this so clearly. I was on a bus trip with the pine hollow marching band, coming home at the same time. What a horrible tragedy. My poor grandmother worked at Alhambra High at the time, and thought it was our bus. Still think of it, and pray for those that lived and died.

Remembering May 10, 2013 at 2:34 PM

My Dad was one of the Firefighters there that Day

anon May 10, 2013 at 2:40 PM

The ramp was not changed.
The light bulb was out on the air brakes.

Alopez May 10, 2013 at 3:23 PM

@anon- the people who passed away

Enfield303 May 10, 2013 at 3:33 PM

I remember driving by after it happened. It was on its top and crushed down to the top of the seats. I think of it every time I pass the site. So sad.

Elwood May 10, 2013 at 5:40 PM

I knew the father of one of the girls who was killed.

It almost killed him.

concord99 May 10, 2013 at 5:43 PM

I warned MTA about I this danerous exit. Did the listen? No.

local94553 May 10, 2013 at 5:47 PM

I remember this day as well. I answer the phone in the office at my high school. I remember the man telling me our school bus went over the Benicia bridge. I thought he meant in the water. It was not our school bus but that of Yuba city. We had a class mate that had moved from Yuba City and had many friends on that bus. What a horriable day. Our prayers to all the victims, their families and friends. So tragic !

EdiBirsan May 10, 2013 at 6:09 PM

Former Mayor Bill Shinn was with the Sheriff Department at the time and was the first one on the scene as I recall.

PHMomOf3 May 10, 2013 at 6:15 PM

Like Chicken, my grandfather was a fire chief at Shell and was one of the first on scene. My mother and I recently talked about this when taking the exit. I was too little at the time to remember.

J. May 10, 2013 at 7:14 PM

@anon #14
They look more like diamonds than +plus signs.

Wendy May 11, 2013 at 7:14 PM

I remember that day all too well, I tried to donate blood but was turned away because I was expecting. I cried for days. My son will be 37 at the end of May. My heart still goes out to the families.

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