From The Salina Journal, Monday, 16 Dec 1940, front page.
DEATH RIDES STREAMLINER INTO SALINA __________ SIX YOUNG PEOPLE KILLED IN CROSSING TRAGEDY __________ RUNS TOLL UP TO NINE __________ SALINA'S RECORD OF VIOLENT DEATHS SINCE OCTOBER __________ Car In This, Worst and Most Gruesome Of All, Drove Straight Onto Crossing In Snow, Ignoring the Warning ___________ When the Union Pacific Streamliner crashed into a car driven by Bernard Nelson at the North Santa Fe avenue crossing Saturday night, snuffing out the lives of six Salina young people, a new chapter in violent death was written. This was by far the worst disaster in the recent history of Salina from the standpoint of loss of life. The dead: Joseph A. Stolz, Jr., 18, 738 North Second Bernard William Nelson, 19, 142 South Seventh Harrison M. Jackson, 20, 149 North Tenth Edith Marie Haley, 20, 226 South Third Lulu Fern Shelley, 29, 411 South Santa Fe Murvis Lucile Jones, 23, 146 South Ninth.
Mounting Death Toll Since October 9 nine Salina people have been killed here in railroad crossing accidents involving cars--John Sullivan on October 9, Charles Lammon and Cleo Johnson on November 28, and now these six. The disaster in Saturday nights's sleet storm brought the mounting toll of traffic death here for 1940 to 12.
It was 8:50 oclock Saturday night when Engineer Peter Elias, 244 North Eighth, brought the Streamliner into Salina from the east, 20 minutes behind schedule. As the last motor train bore down on the North Santa Fe crossing the car, presumably driven by Bernard Nelson, approached from the south. Its windshield was coated with ice and its occupants undoubtedly oblivious of approaching death.
The Watchman's Story "I seen them coming," said Joe Cottle, crossing watchman living at 341 North Eleventh. "I had my lantern out. I was in the center of the street swinging the lantern and blowing my whistle. I seen them coming for a block or more and I seen the rate of speed they were coming. I kept swinging my lantern and trying to stop them. I don't know how fast they were going but it was at a high rate of speed.
"I seen the train was going to get them and I jumped to the east. You know it could have knocked the car over and got me where I was. It hit the car about center, I think, but didn't drag it.
"The car seemed to bounce up and skidded away toward the northwest. I gave a jump and kinda turned my head. It just kinda stunned me there for a jiffy.
"I guess I was the first to reach them. There was a man and woman laying on the ground and the rest were still in the car. I never heard a whimper. The girl was decapitated. I seen there wasn't anything I could do for them."
Straight Ride To Death Police measurements showed the car was knocked 102 feet from the west edge of the pavement, west along the right of way. Cottle said the train stopped in about two lengths. He added that there was nothing unusual about the way the car was being driven as it approached, except the speed. "They weren't weaving any," Cottle said, "They were coming right straight down the street."
Young Nelson was still breathing when rescuers removed him from the demolished auto but died on the way to Asbury hospital. Several occupants of the car were horribly mangled, death in most instances resulting from skull fractures, as was the case with Nelson.
Coroner Guy Ryan today announced there will be no inquest.
The Six Funerals Funeral rites for Edith Marie Haley were held at 1:30 oclock this afternoon in the Ryan-Sullivan Mortuary with Reverend Thayer of Abilene officiating. Burial was in Gypsum Hill cemetery.
Services for Bernard William Nelson will be held at 2:30 oclock Tuesday afternoon in the Covenant Mission church with Rev. O.T. Backlund officiating, and burial will be in Gypsum Hill Cemetery.
Final services for Harrison M. Jackson will be held in the Grubb Funeral Home at Ellsworth Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 oclock, a Christian Science service being used. Burial will be in the Ellsworth cemetery.
Services for Murvis Lucile Jones will be held in the Rush Smith Funeral Home at 2:30 oclock Tuesday afternoon with Rev. Herbert Jackson Root officiating and burial will be in Gypsum Hill cemetery.
Final rites for Lulu Fern Shelley will be held at 2:30 oclock Wednesday afternoon in the First Baptist church with Rev. W. E. Simmons officiating and burial will be in Gypsum Hill cemetery.
The body of Joseph A. Stolz, Jr. remained at the Ryan-Sullivan Mortuary, the final arrangements awaiting arrival of relatives from California.
Lulu Shelley, a bookkeeper for the City Plumbing company, Edith Haley, beauty operator at Boykin Beauty salon, and Murvis Jones, also a beauty operator at the same shop, had been friends for some time.
Both beauty operators worked until nearly 6 oclock Saturday night, according to Mrs. Jimmy Boykin. "They left together," Mrs. Boykin said. "Edith had some shopping to do and was gone about 20 minutes. She had a customer under the dryer and came back to finish. She stayed just a minute, then. Neither of the girls had discussed any plans for the evening."
Where they met Bernard Nelson or Joseph A. Stolz, Jr., was not known today, but Harrison Jackson was last to join the group, having been with his wife only a few minutes before the tragedy at the restaurant where she has been employed.
They were apparently just riding around since earlier plans to decorate a Christmas tree at the home of Murvis Jones went awry because another friend, Earl Davis, who rooms at the Shelley home, did not get back from Junction City in time.
Delay Saves His Life As Davis stood looking at the mutilated bodies a short time after his arrival he might have said, "There but for the grace of God am I", for such were the palns of the evening. "I would have been with them if I had returned in time", was what he did say.
Members of the train crew verified the statement of the crossing watchman that he had signalled frantically to stop the car. They were, in adition to Engineer Elias, Roy O. Smith, fireman, 130 South Kansas; Ernest Mayer, conductor, 415 West South; and J. O. Turner, brakeman, Kansas City.
Engineer Elias told the police, "I had just let loose of the whistle when the car hit the front end of the train." Elias, too, saw the watchman waving his lantern. Roy Smith, fireman, told police the train was moving about 35 miles an hour.
Disregarding the snowstorm, curious spectators by the score gathered at the scene of the tragedy, where earlier ambulances had gone screaming away with the dead. City and county officers rushed to the scene and both Under-sheriff Paul Shanahan and Chief D. K. Fitch concurred in the opinion that the sleet had been a contributing factor to the accident.
The Dead [See individuals pages for their respective obituaries.]
Bernard William Nelson was born November 16, 1921, in Salina, and had lived here all his life, working with his father's transfer company. Surviving are his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Reuben Nelson; one brother, James Carol, living at home, and three sisters, Mrs. Ruby B. Freeman, Virginia Louise and Lorene Mae, all residents of this city. Pallbearers will be Richard Johnson, James Lewis, Delbert Sears, Myron Ramsey, Ray Ramsey and Arthur Nelson.