Thursday, January 28, 2010

Palm Sunday Tornado, 1965 Part 2

The following are clickable links to stories about the Palm Sunday tornadoes of 1965:

My site on Sue Elaine (Bullock) Bishop

The Palm Sunday Tornado

Palm Sunday Tornado, 1965

The Palm Sunday Tornado outbreak of April 1965 will never be forgotten by many people. Especially our family. My husband's mother, Sue Elaine (Bullock) Bishop, died as a result of injuries she recieved in the twister that tore a pathway through Marion, Indiana on that Sunday afternoon, April 11, 1965. It wound and twisted it's way through the town, and touched down directly on top of the Bishop household on Monroe Pike. The house imploded, and Sue Bishop tried to cover her children with her own body to protect them. In doing so, she suffered injuries that later proved to be fatal. She died three days later in Methodist Hospital, in Indianapolis Indiana.
I have been trying to gather footage and pictures from the event and am going to share some of those with you. Some of the other information in this blog article are from various other sources on the internet, and those sources will be listed with whatever material is shared with you here.
The following are actual pictures of the Bishop home on Monroe Pike, and the surrounding area the morning after the twister struck:

The pictures below are from a book that was titled 'A Portrait of Disaster'. I photocopied it in the Marion Indiana Library many years ago.

The documents below are pdf versions of newspaper scans.

Palm Sunday Tornado


Palm Sunday Tornado -

Palm Sunday Tornado -

Twin funnels in Elkhart, Indiana on April 11, 1965. A double tornado was also sighted near Toledo during this tornado outbreak.
Photo courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/ Department of Commerce


The above two pictures are from the following website:
The author gives the source of these photos as follows:
Credit for the photos goes to Willis Haenes. Many thanks to Jim Stewart for providing the name of the photographer. Click on “Comments” below to read Jim’s message. The bottom photo appeared in a groundbreaking paper by Dr. Ted Fujita on the Palm Sunday Outbreak. According to a map by Fujita, the view is from Bremen, Indiana, looking west toward just north of LaPaz.
The following article is from a NOAA site:

At 4:35pm a squall line reached from near LaCrosse, Wisconsin through Rockford to Champaign Illinois. SELS issued another tornado forecast. It was valid over the northern half of Indiana, northwest Ohio, and southeast Michigan.
Done with its brief nap, the storm system woke up with renewed vigor shortly before 6pm. Massive thunderstorms had erupted over northwest Indiana, and the first Hoosier tornado of the day crashed to earth. It touched down in Starke County a few miles southwest of a hamlet known as, appropriately, Hamlet. It crossed US Route 30 and tore directly across Koontz Lake. One hundred vacation cottages were severely damaged. As one of the cottages was blown to pieces, the man inside was lifted into the air and thrown to his death 600 feet away.
The people of Lapaz and Lakeville had been very happy in recent weeks. Lakeville High School had grown old, and was in need of repairs and modernization. Instead of fixing the old building, however, the two communities decided to build a brand new high school for their students. Residents of the area often drove by the construction site, and the progress of the new school was a common topic of conversation. It became even more of a topic of conversation after April 11. The tornado that wreaked havoc at Koontz Lake was huge and grey by the time it reached US Route 31 between LaPaz and Lakeville. It completely flattened the high school. Weeks of hard, backbreaking work were undone in a few seconds.
The people of Wyatt, Indiana, had been watching the southwest sky grow darker and darker. By the time it finally changed its hue from black to green, they knew trouble was coming. They gathered their families, maybe a flashlight or a few candles, and hurried into their basements and storm cellars in a state of controlled urgency. The tornado that had just ripped down all of the new boards at Lakeville High School had been moving across open country, and was hungry for another town. Wyatt was that town. The funnel swirled directly down Main Street in Wyatt, and destroyed twenty homes. Wyatt�s already small population fell even further.
The South Bend weather office had issued a tornado warning for LaPorte, Starke, and Marshall counties two minutes before the Koontz Lake tornado touched down in central Starke County. The South Bend office had no radar, nor a remote radar feed. They were relying on phone conversations with radar operators in Chicago.
At 6pm the South Bend office received reports of tornadoes near Grovertown on US Route 30 in northeast Starke County, just north of Plymouth, and near Argos in southern Marshall County. The weather observer issued a Tornado Warning for Saint Joseph, Marshall, Elkhart, and Kosciusko counties.
At a quarter after six, as the incomplete Lakeville High School was splintering apart, another tornado touched down just fifteen miles to the east, near the Saint Joseph/Elkhart county line. It moved northeast to Wakarusa, where it took the life of a child.
The AP wire had been going crazy at the Elkhart Truth. Many weather bulletins had printed out that afternoon, and were collecting in a huge pile on the desk of Paul Huffman. Paul was sifting through the warnings when the editor told him to grab his camera and go out to document the extreme conditions. Paul was out of the door in a flash, and directed his car southeastward towards Goshen. Just before he left the newspaper, he learned from the South Bend weather office that a tornado had been reported northwest of Nappanee and was moving northeast. He knew that meant the tornado was heading for the northwest side of Goshen, so that�s where he positioned himself. He sat in his car and waited.
As the sky grew blacker and blacker to his southwest, Paul wondered if he had underestimated what he had gotten himself into. He nervously fidgeted with the camera in his lap as he stared out his car window. The rain that had been falling began to mix with large hailstones that bounced madly on Paul�s car and made a terrifying ding. Paul was shrinking back from the windshield in front of him when suddenly the hail and rain stopped. He was about to breathe a sigh of relief, when instead he gasped for air. Just off to his left was what he had been waiting for. It was a spinning mass of black cloud dragging itself along the earth. Bright sky was behind the funnel, and with no precipitation falling, Paul knew he would be able to get some great shots.
Mr. Huffman lifted the camera to his eye and began snapping pictures as quickly as he could. The funnel was moving to the right across his field of vision. As it approached the road about half a mile in front of him, it grew to such a massive size that it took up much of the frame. The tornado, in the midst of crossing the highway, decided to put on a spectacular show. Paul Huffman took one of the most celebrated tornado pictures of all-time as the monster before him morphed into a spectacular double funnel. One massive tornado just a couple of hundred feet behind another massive tornado, they charged northeast in tandem in front of Paul�s lens. As they continued off to the right they combined into a chaotic mass of boiling, black cloud raking over Elkhart County.
The small community of Dunlap, made up primarily of mobile homes and modest houses, lay just southeast of Elkhart on US Highway 33. The tornado Paul Huffman was photographing must have had some sort of vendetta against sleepy Dunlap, for it was on the edge of town when the tornado developed its incredible double funnel structure. The twins chewed through the southeast side of Dunlap, destroying eighty percent of the Midway Trailer Court and killing ten people. It tossed planes around upside down in the air and ripped their wings off as it skimmed by Goshen Airport. One of the airplane wings was later found near Centreville, Michigan, thirty-five miles away from Goshen, and nearly twenty-five miles beyond the end of the tornado�s path!
At 6:25pm one tornado had just finished destroying Lakeville High School in Saint Joseph County, a second tornado had just killed a child in Wakarusa in Elkhart County, and a third tornado had just dropped to earth a few miles south of Valparaiso in Porter County. This third tornado would go on to produce near-F4 damage to homes southwest of Wanatah, and would destroy homes near Kingsford Heights, while the other two tornadoes were simultaneously producing F4 damage in Wyatt and Dunlap.
Although he had no idea at the time, as Paul Huffman was watching the double funnel cross Route 33 in front of him, another monstrous twister was spinning to the ground nine miles behind him near Millersburg. This new tornado struck off to the northeast, devastating the Amish counrtryside of eastern Elkhart County and the northwest half of Lagrange County. As the storm passed south of Shipshewana it flattened the quiet communities of Shore and Rainbow Lake, doing near-F5 damage as it reduced large farm houses to nothing more than a foundation.
The South Bend weather office issued several products during the day�s eighteenth hour describing the locations of the tornadoes swarming through the area. Finally at 6:50pm the exasperated observer issued the following statement:
Reports of tornadoes and funnel clouds have become so numerous that it is impossible to keep track of them. Warnings should therefore exist throughout the central northern portion of Indiana. The problems have been intensified by telephones being out in many areas and it is impossible to notify many people.
While the South Bend observer was sending that statement, an F4 tornado started satisfying its appetite in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where it ruined the property and lives of many residents.
The unique intensity of the weather system in the Midwest that Palm Sunday was about to be demonstrated ten minutes later as an unusual event began to take shape in the northwest corner of Steuben County, near the community of Orland, Indiana. An intense tornado formed and quickly crossed the border into Michigan. It struck the village of East Gilead squarely, and then continued on to destroy homes along the shore of Coldwater Lake, filling the water with debris. When it reached the opposite shore of the lake, a second tornado formed just five miles to the southwest near Kinderhook. The two tornadoes took off together in the same direction along the same path, so that anybody hit by the first twister would get hit by the second one several minutes later. By the time the first tornado passed south of Hillsdale, its friend was about thirty minutes behind it. The duo roared across the countryside producing F4 damage in a swath over a mile wide.
In western Lenawee County, Michigan, about fifty people were attending Palm Sunday church services at the Manitou Beach Baptist Church. When they arrived at church, rumors of tornadoes peppered the conversations as the crowd gathered together outside the front doors of the building. At 7pm the service started, and the congregation filed in. Faint thunder was heard stirring in the distance. As the service progressed, the thunder became loud enough that it shook the church. The people began thinking more about the weather outside than what they were hearing from the pulpit. The thunder developed into a low, steady rumble. The church-goers noticed the rumble before they even realized it. They had been feeling the vibration in their feet before the sound actually reached their ears and alerted them to the fact that something was happening behind them. As the service was nearing its end, the rumbling sound that had been distracting the parishoners grew deafeningly loud. The stained glass windows shattered. People began screaming in their surprise and terror. Plaster rained down on them as mothers grabbed their children and everybody began pushing each other into the aisles. The shrieking wind blew the church doors open, forcing the people inside to bend over to nearly a ninety degree angle as they fought the wind, rain, hail, and debris in order to reach the stairs to the basement. Half of them never made it. The church folded and collapsed upon them, burying over two dozen people in the rubble.
Forty minutes later the second tornado roared through, but there was nothing left for it to destroy, other than some vacation cottages along the shore of Manitou Lake.
As the storm continued across Lenawee County, the twin tornadoes, combined with powerful downburst winds, created a damage path up to four miles wide from one end of the county to the other. The wind recorder at Tecumseh, in the northeast part of the county, recorded a wind gust of 151 mph when the south fringe of the first tornado passed by. Fifty-five minutes later the second tornado hit the airport directly and gave a wind gust of 75 mph. Ten minutes later, straight-line winds rushing into the backside of the thunderstorm gusted to 70 mph.
The horrific supercell finally took its two destroyers back up into the cloud in northern Monroe County, just west of Lake Erie and southwest of Detroit. The second, weaker tornado had fallen back to about an hour behind the first one. Together they traveled ninety miles, killed forty-four people, and injured 612.
Of the counties that these tornadoes hit, only Hillsdale was warned for. The Lansing weather office thought the storm would move to the northeast rather than the east, and as a result they warned for the counties to the north of the eventual track. The Lansing office had good reason to forecast a northeast movement, since every other tornado in the border area that day had indeed moved in a northeast direction; as was this pair of tornadoes, until it reached central Hillsdale County and made a turn to the right.
As the Manitou Beach Tornado was just crossing the Michigan/Indiana line, hail two inches in diameter -- about the size of a hen�s egg -- was battering Lafayette, Indiana. Another tornado formed a few miles southwest of the city. This tornado passed through mostly rural country, although it did produce F4 damage in northwest Clinton County between Cambria and Moran. This tornado was significant in that it did not form in the same area as the previous tornadoes in Michiana. It developed in a whole new supercell. A supercell that would grow, evolve, and become one of a new front of storms that would rake across central Indiana about a hundred miles south of the storms in the Michigan/Indiana border area.
Three minutes after the tornado began near Lafayette, the most powerful tornado ever to hit northern Indiana struck ground. It began several miles south of South Bend and set off to the northeast, heading directly for...Dunlap.
Paul Huffmans�s tornadoes crushed the Midway Trailer Court around 6:30pm. As the storm continued on beyond the town, the residents cautiously crept out from their damaged homes to survey the destruction and to assist their injured neighbors. Rescue crews arrived almost immediately from Elkhart and Goshen to tend to the hurt. A constant stream of ambulances, fire trucks, hearses, and volunteer�s cars filled the highway as they shuttled people to hospitals. The tornado had hit, and the people of the area had paid a terrible price to it, but at least it was done. The storm had moved on, and once you�re hit by a tornado it�s supposed to be over. After the tornado, the weather is supposed to calm down. So when the southwest sky began to fill with lightning before many of the tornado victims had even been found yet, the crowds at Dunlap groaned. They groaned not because they feared another tornado, but because they didn�t want to get rained on. But rain it did. The rain slashed down on rescuers and victims alike, chilling people to the bone and stinging their faces. Soon the rain began falling nearly sideways as the wind increased. At half past seven, the people in the unassuming community of Dunlap had their worst fears realized � again. A tornado even more powerful than the first one ripped into town. It leveled houses to the ground. It destroyed the Sunnyside and Kingston Heights subdivisions. Anything left standing after the first tornado was not only leveled, but swept clean from the surface of the earth.
Its need of destruction not yet satiated, the twister moved on and destroyed a truck stop at the corner of routes 20 and 15 where it took six more lives. The horror finally lifted back into the sky in the northwest corner of Lagrange County near Stone Lake. With this tornado, the storms along the state line had finally blown themselves out, and would produce no further major tornadoes.
It was not a good day for the poor observer at the South Bend weather office. At 7:13pm he issued this statement:
Broadcasting stations are urged to ask people to not call the Weather Bureau unless they have weather to report. We have had numerous poor joke calls and they tie up the lines.
At the time that statement was issued, three different areas of storms were producing tornadoes: one in central Michigan, one along the Indiana/Michigan border, and one in central Indiana.
The people of Crawfordsville had been watching the sky that evening with great apprehension. Fathers were pointing to the sky and telling their sons how to read the clouds. At twenty after seven a twister came to the ground on the southeast side of town, sending everybody rushing inside to safety. The tornado spared Crawfordsville, but had different plans for many other locations in Montgomery, Boone, and Hamilton counties. It produced F4 damage near Smartsdale as it leveled a home to its foundation, killing a person inside. The funnel grew to a mile in width as it moved northwest of Lebanon, and it destroyed over four dozen homes and killed eleven people, six of whom were from the same family. Two cars were thrown a hundred yards from the roadway resulting in four more deaths. The death and destruction then continued into the Arcadia area, forty-five miles east of Crawfordsville.
The news media had been making the Crystal Lake and Dunlap tornadoes famous that evening. At 7:30pm, when the second Dunlap tornado was crushing that town, another tornado was touching down near the Howard/Clinton County line, and would become just as well-known. Within seconds of reaching ground it blew into a community of nine hundred souls known as Russiaville. When it was done tearing up the town, ninety percent of its buildings had been damaged or destroyed. A few miles further along, the tornado became a mile-wide wedge that devastated a hundred homes in Alto, where the Maple Crest Apartments lost their entire second floor. The tornado continued to strengthen, and reached F4 intensity as it pummeled Greentown where eighty homes were destroyed and ten people killed. Debris from Greentown was spread out across the Indiana landscape.
The tornado continued to the east, paralleling the Norfolk and Southern Railroad. Fortunately the tornado was just far enough south so that it missed the towns that were strung out along the tracks.
The people in the VA Hospital in Marion had heard that a tornado was charging through Grant County, though they didn�t know for sure if it was going to hit Marion or not. They soon got their answer when the roof of the hospital was ripped off. Then the Panorama Shopping Center was blown down, and almost immediately was converged upon by looters. Thirty-one electric company transmission towers were toppled. An astounding 835 people had been injured by this tornado, 600 of them in Howard County. Twenty-five were killed.
The funnel lifted near Arcana. As the funnel lifted, the weather office at Fort Wayne issued a Tornado Warning for the counties of Grant, Blackford, Jay, southern Wabash, Huntington, Wells, and Adams. The parent thunderstorm proceeded on to the east, and after only about ten minutes decided to put down another tornado, along the same path.
The tornado steamed across farmland near Roll, and then struck Keystone with F4 strength, killing two people. It continued to the northeast and hit Linn Grove, causing two more fatalities. As it hit Linn Grove, the weather office in Fort Wayne issued the following statement:
The Weather Bureau radar at Baer Field shows a strong hook echo about five miles west of Berne Indiana and moving eastward. Residents in the Berne area should take immediate precautions for personal safety for a strong possibility of a tornado in the next 30 to 60 minutes.
In reality, the tornado skimmed the north side of Berne about six minutes after that statement was sent out. The Fort Wayne office had no idea that an F4 tornado had already been on the ground for twenty-five miles in Grant County, and for thirty-five miles before it finally reached Berne. Twenty-nine people had died and nearly nine hundred were injured when the Fort Wayne office sent out that message.
The twister set its sights on Ohio, and moved into the Buckeye State south of Willshire. Five homes were leveled flat to the ground, and a mother and her son were killed. The tornado then lifted. As the tornado dissipated, the Fort Wayne weather office sent this product:
The Weather Bureau radar at Baer Field shows the strong hook echo now just a mile or two south of Van Wert and weakening in intensity. Hold the line a minute for a definite report on tornado at Berne. The tornado touched down at Berne three miles west and one mile northeast. Several houses destroyed and ambulances are rushing to scene. Tornado hit between ten and fifteen minutes ago which would be between 8:50 and 8:55 PM EST.
In the days following the Marion and Linn Grove tornadoes, several witnesses would report having seen two tornadoes in tandem push through the area. The known existence of twin tornadoes at Dunlap and from Hillsdale to Monroe County Michigan lend credence to these reports.
While the weather was wreaking havoc in central Indiana, the storms in central Michigan continued to produce tornadoes. The Michigan tornadoes were weaker; mostly doing F2 damage. However they were still quite widespread and resulted in fifty-three fatalities that evening. Before 9pm Lansing, Michigan reported 63mph winds with 3/4-inch hail. Several minutes later half-inch hail fell on Ypsilanti and Detroit. Detroit Metropolitan Airport received an inch of rain in thirty minutes.
At 9:20pm, the Fort Wayne office issued the following unfortunate statement:
Attention WOMO Please use emergency action notification signal. Marion Indiana reported through Fort Wayne signal department at 9:07 PM EST that three tornadoes had struck the city of Marion with extensive damage. The Veterans Administration Hospital was one area hit. Request for ambulance assistance has been requested from Muncie and Anderson. The Fort Wayne Weather Bureau places these counties under alert for eastward movement that struck Marion. These counties are Wells Adams Blackford and Jay Counties. Residents in these counties should remain on the alert for the next 60 minutes.
The tornadoes Fort Wayne was warning for had actually hit Marion a full hour and twenty minutes earlier. Apparently the Fort Wayne weather observer thought that the report he received from Marion was saying that the tornadoes had just occurred. The Fort Wayne observer then sent a message to the Columbus Ohio weather office stating that a tornado had hit Marion at 9:07pm, and the Columbus weather office then issued its own statement with that same erroneous information. In reality the storm had hit Marion around 8pm. At the time of Fort Wayne�s warning, the line of storms on radar was well east of Marion, extending from Paulding and Van Wert counties into Adams and Jay counties.
At 9:30pm the Fort Wayne office lost power, and was out of service for an hour. By the time the office got its electricity back the storms were well east into Ohio.

Please see Palm Sunday Tornado 1965 part 2 for more information.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

1976 Luling Louisiana Ferry Disaster

The following post is about the ferry wreck that happened about 2 blocks from my house in 1976. I was only 14 then, and my father was working at Monsanto at the time. He had just gotten off graveyard shift (3'd) and didn't get home till about 8:30 or so that morning. He had gone to the ferry landing and saw the site- what was happening on the river after the wreck.
This post is in memory of those who lost their lives that morning.

Source for the following is Wikipedia
At about 6:00 on the morning in question, the George Prince was berthed at the East Bank landing, taking on vehicles. Her crew had been on duty all night, and was due to get off duty at 7:00. She was facing upriver, and took on a full load of vehicles, consisting of 20 cars, 8 trucks, 6 motorcycles, and an unknown number of pedestrians. Of the passengers aboard, there is no accounting of people in vehicles versus pedestrians. About 20 people were crowded in a waiting room to avoid the pre-dawn chill.
Once loaded, the George Prince departed and made a short run upriver before turning to cross the river. She did not give any indication of her departure by radio or horn. When operating in tandem, the ferries operated by sight with each other.
The George Prince proceeded across the river, never changing course nor acknowledging radio traffic.
According to the survivors, some of the passengers were aware of the Frosta as it traveled upriver, and there was a growing anxiety over what appeared to be a collision course, although this anxiety was somewhat tempered by their belief that the ferry would maneuver to avoid the ship, especially since there was no indication of danger from the George Prince. When the Frosta sounded the danger signal, there was an immediate panic from those who could see the ship, and their flight from danger alerted others. To what point the passengers on the side opposite the ship were aware of the danger can never be known, as all the survivors were on the side of the impact.
When the ferry had nearly finished its voyage across the river, she was struck near the middle of the port side by the bow of the Frosta. The force of the collision drove the stem of the Frosta 8 feet (2.4 m) into the side. Impaled on the port side and being pushed sideways up the river, the starboard side of the George Prince was quickly submerged and the vessel capsized almost immediately. After capsizing, the ferry was driven under the ship, where the bottoms of the vessels collided.
All the vehicles were thrown off of the deck, except for a motorcycle, which was entangled in the railing. One vehicle floated briefly before filling with water and sinking; the rest sank immediately.
Less than two minutes had elapsed since departing the dock.
The circumstances of the collision in 1974 resembled those of the 1976 tragedy except that in the earlier accident there were no fatalities. The accident occurred just before dawn in good visibility; the ferry operator failed to see the upbound vessels though they were seen by the passengers on the deck; and the ferry operator failed to make good use of his radios to check for river traffic. Following the investigation by the Coast Guard into the accident, an Administrative Law Judge suspended the ferry operator’s license for three months. That decision was affirmed by the Coast Guard Commandant and by the National Transportation Safety Board in a decision adopted six days after the 1976 tragedy.
With the East Bank ferry landing obstructed by ships, the Frosta could not see any activity at the landing until a quarter-mile away. At the point of collision, though, the river is more than half-a-mile wide. Having spotted the Ollie K. Wilds crossing, the pilot was aware of the ferry operation.
The pilot observed a ferry depart the East Bank landing, heading upriver. He called twice on his hand-held transceiver, waiting ample time between transmissions for a reply, but receiving none. He blew the ship's horn twice, indicating his desire to pass in front of the ferry. While the two-blast signal had no standing or meaning according to the "Western River Rules of the Road", it was commonly understood at the time for the ferry to give way and allow the ship to pass. At the time of the horn signal, the ferry had already turned to port, beginning to cross the river, and was less than a quarter-mile away.
The ferry did not respond, and the pilot again called on the radio, and repeated the two-blast signal on the ship's horn. The ferry still did not respond, and proceeded directly in the path of the Frosta.
At this point, the pilot began continuous radio calls and horn blasts. He also ordered the Frosta full astern. The pilot made no attempt to turn the ship, though. He was traveling on the west side of the channel; this gave him no choice but to turn the ship to the starboard, which, had the ferry turned, would have meant that the ship turned toward the ferry. The pilot also feared striking a bridge pier construction site just upriver, or running aground or into one of the ships docked at the grain elevator.
The ferry was on a constant bearing, less than 500 feet (150 m) away, when it passed out of sight of the Frosta's bridge crew. The crew felt a slight bump as the ship collided with the ferry. The ferry rolled off the bow of the ship to the starboard side, then rolled under, emerging on the ship's port side, 275 yards (251 m) from the bank. As the ferry came into view, it was nearly totally capsized. A vehicle was seen floating down the river, with its headlights still on, before filling with water and sinking.
The pilot ordered "all stop" on the engines to avoid hazarding any survivors with a churning propeller. The captain of the ship and the pilot both called for assistance from any vessel in the area, and notified the Coast Guard. The ship maneuvered through the construction area and anchored midstream over a mile upriver, carried most of this way by forward momentum. Once anchored, Frosta launched two of her life boats in a futile attempt to rescue survivors. None of the crew of the ship ever saw any survivors in the water.
A total of 18 passengers survived the collision. Passengers who were able to see downstream became aware of the rapidly closing motions of the vessels, and rightly concluded that the collision was imminent. Fourteen of the survivors were thrown clear and surfaced without difficulty. Three others were briefly trapped under the George Prince. The last survivor had run back to his vehicle, thinking he would be safer in his truck. After the collision, he managed to escape his sinking vehicle through a window. Only one survivor had a life jacket before going into the water, but had not had time to put it on. Two others found life jackets floating in the river, which they used for a short time, but neither man had time to properly don the life jackets.
Aboard the Ollie K. Wilds, the crew in the pilot house did not see the collision. As they were preparing to offload vehicles, an engineer burst through the door, saying a passenger saw a ship run over the ferry. The captain of the ferry immediately ordered his vessel to cast off, having offloaded just one of his 15 vehicle load. He contacted the pilot of the Frosta, and asked him if the ferry had sunk. "He went in front of me, and I ran him over," was the pilot's reply.
A St. Charles Parish sheriff's deputy, who had been riding aboard the Ollie K. Wilds, used a radio aboard to report the collision to his dispatcher in Hahnville, and requested assistance.
The Ollie K. Wilds proceeded across the river cautiously, so as to not run over any survivors. As the ferries touched, passengers bridged the gap with benches from the waiting room, and sixteen survivors, perched on the overturned hull, came across to safety.
As the Ollie K. Wilds was crossing the river, a deck hand and the deputy had launched the small rescue boat. They pulled one survivor from the water.
The tugboat MV Alma S. was preparing to help turn one of the ships at the grain elevator. He heard the Frosta's pilot making the emergency calls, and heard the horn sounding. The crew cast off from the ship and proceeded slowly across the river toward the overturned ferry, with the survivors standing on the hull. Fifteen yards (14 m) from the George Prince, the crew heard a man call for help. The crew threw a life ring to him, and pulled him aboard.
All the survivors were taken to the West Bank ferry landing for the expected arrival of aid. All the passengers were taken to hospitals, and stayed there for at least 72 hours.
The Coast Guard, immediately notified of the collision from the frantic radio calls, dispatched helicopters to the scene. One helicopter stopped at Lakefront Airport to pick up a diving team. The divers were airborne at 7:14, and arrived at 7:25. They were on the vessel at 7:34. They checked for survivors by tapping on the hull, with no response. At 8:33, they reported that there were no signs of life, and that other divers were needed to search inside the hull for bodies.
Having heard news media reports of the tragedy, a professional dive team drove themselves to the site and offered assistance. Being commercial divers, they were equipped with air line masks instead of tanks, and were much less restricted in their movements. They were also accustomed to working in the "blackout" conditions of the river. Large amounts of sediment obscure any vision in the river.
The dive team recovered nine bodies from the passenger compartment of the George Prince. Two more were recovered from the pilot house. The engine room held five bodies. One was found in a bathroom doorway, and another was found in a storeroom.
Fifty-seven bodies, and a portion of another, were found in submerged vehicles, as they were recovered from the river bottom between October 23 and October 27, 1976. One body was found in the river on May 22, 1977.
Coordination and responsibility for salvage of the George Prince and her vehicles was assumed by the state's Director of Administration, Charles Roemer II, father of future governor Buddy Roemer.
That afternoon, a crane barge arrived on scene, and prepared to right and raise the ferry, which by now rested on the river bottom near the West Bank, with the hull barely protruding from the water. Overnight, the ferry was turned over by the salvage crew. The next morning, lifting operations began, and continued late into the night. At 10:00 p.m., the ferry was raised enough to permit dewatering operations, and the river reopened to limited marine traffic. The ferry was towed to the Louisiana Department of Highways yard in Plaquemine, LA, for further investigation. The damage was deemed irreparable, and the George Prince never sailed again.
Investigators used the weather conditions from Moisant International Airport (now Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport), less than seven miles (11 km) away. Conditions there were recorded as a "clear, crisp, pre-dawn darkness, without fog, haze, or other local environmental impairment to visibility." Winds were from the north-northeast at 13 knots, with gusts to 20 knots (37 km/h).
The river conditions were measured at the Carrollton Gauge, eighteen miles (29 km) downriver. Maximum velocity was 1.5 miles per hour (2.4 km/h), with average velocity of 1.16 mph (1.87 km/h), and the river was 2 feet (0.61 m) above sea level.
Once it was raised, Coast Guard officials from the Marine Investigation Office boarded the ferry and examined the pilot house. One of the radar sets was off, another was on. The radio was turned on, and tuned to channel 13, the same channel used by the river pilot.
A plywood box was found in the pilot house, containing various logbooks and other documents, along with a half-pint bottle of Seagrams V. O. whiskey, with about an inch of whiskey remaining. No fingerprints could be recovered from the bottle, despite the efforts of the FBI laboratory in Washington, DC.
The body of the ferry pilot was autopsied by Orleans Parish coroner Dr. Frank Minyard. The blood alcohol level was determined to be 0.09%, just shy of the legal definition of intoxication of 0.10%. No other drugs were present. Minyard's report stated that the pilot, Egidio Auletta, had been drinking and was experiencing some degree of impairment at the time of his death at the helm.

From the Coast Guard investigation report:
   1. The George Prince, under the control of Egidio Auletta, departed and turned almost immediately to cross the river, because the current was slow and the volume of automobile traffic made it attractive to cross as quickly as possible.
   2. The departure into stream traffic created a situation where risk of collision could exist, but did not signal his intent to cross the river by radio or horn. Had he announced his departure with the proper signal, and signaled his intent to cross in front of the Frosta, he would have made a rude but acceptable crossing of the river.
   3. Due to complacency, fatigue, and/or the effects of alcohol, Auletta failed to detect the approaching ship until the final seconds before collision, when she disappeared from the view of the Frosta's pilot, by which time the collision was inevitable. The investigators concluded that he had time to maneuver to lessen the collision by making it a glancing blow, but the forward momentum and downstream current made the collision "beyond human remedy".
   4. The primary cause of the tragedy was the navigation of George Prince into the channel without due regard to, or awareness of, river traffic and the risk of collision. The investigators stated that they "could not imagine a more vivid example to prove that keeping a proper lookout is the first rule of seamanship".
   5. There was evidence of numerous violations on the part of Egidio Auletta. They are:
         1. failure to sound a horn upon departing a dock
         2. failure to keep a proper lookout
         3. failure to slacken speed, or, if necessary, stop and reverse when approaching another vessel so as to avoid risk of collision
         4. failure to signal intentions when crossing
         5. failure to navigate with caution until danger of collision is over
         6. use of a vessel in a negligent manner so as to endanger life, limb, and property
   1. Frosta's pilot, Nicholas Colombo, correctly assessed the risk of collision and sought agreement on a safe passage for both vessels. Local custom was for small vessels to give way to large vessels in stream traffic, due to the relative difficulty in maneuvering ships in the channel, but could not absolve him of the legal requirement to yield to traffic approaching from his starboard. According to the investigators, "This casualty is a classic example of the tragic consequences which can result from conflict between established custom and the law when each mandates a different response by the persons involved."
   2. After sighting the Ollie K Wilds cross, Colombo, the Frosta's pilot made numerous attempts to contact the ferry, and saw the George Prince turn into his path immediately after departure. As the ferry continued into harm's way, failing to respond to the attempts to make contact, Colombo did not order a reduction in speed or reversal of engine until less than a minute before collision, and the ship finally responded to the "full astern" order with barely 15 seconds before striking the ferry.
   3. Having chosen first to follow custom and then failing to make contact, Colombo should have considered the George Prince unresponsive and acted quickly and decisively to avert a collision.
   4. Altering course:
         1. Colombo did not consider any turn to starboard practical. If he made a slight turn to starboard, and the ferry responded according to practice (to yield to the larger vessel), then he would have turned toward the ferry and a collision. If he made a radical turn to starboard, he would have been in jeopardy of collision with the ship moored at the grain elevator.
         2. He also did not consider a turn to port; since the ship was already favoring that side of the channel, there was little room to turn.
         3. Therefore, Colombo was forced to continue ahead.
   5. Altering speed:
         1. Given the bulk of the ship and the time it would take to make an appreciable change in speed, the option to accelerate from the setting of "half ahead" to "full ahead" would have been futile.
         2. Colombo was obliged to slow Frosta. Given the close quarters, for any reduction in speed to be effective, it would have to be applied quickly. If he had decisively slowed the Frosta after not receiving a response to his first call, the collision could have been avoided or lessened, and the panel deemed this the prudent response.
The panel concluded that Colombo navigated the SS Frosta in a negligent manner.
   1. The captain of the Frosta, Kjell Sletten, was supervising his vessel's journey upriver via periodic visits to the pilothouse, observations he made by looking out his cabin window, and by the presence of his Mate, Peder Gasvaer, who was on the bridge. The mate was responsible to call the captain to the bridge in a situation that required his presence, although such situations were not defined. The mate did not notify Sletten until the sounding of the danger signal and the order for "full astern", seconds before the collision. The panel concluded that, although the bridge watch was not deficient, had the mate called for the captain earlier, that the captain may have had a lower threshold for the ferry's actions and might have acted sooner.
   2. A master of the ship can delegate, but does not abdicate, responsibility for safe navigation to the mate. Therefore, as captain, Sletten is ultimately responsible for the safe navigation of the Frosta.
   3. The panel concluded that Sletten allowed the Frosta to be used in a negligent manner.
   1. The 18 persons who never escaped from the interior of the George Prince drowned almost immediately as the interior flooded through numerous openings in the hull including doors and windows. There was not sufficient air trapped in the hull to sustain life.
   2. Most of the people who died were trapped under the overturned hull or in their vehicles, and could not find a clear path to the surface. An unknown number may have reached the surface but, because of injuries or inability to swim, did not survive.
   3. There is no evidence of equipment or material failure of either vessel which caused or contributed to the tragedy.
   4. Life saving equipment provided aboard the George Prince was of little use in this accident. Life jackets are designed to aid in escaping a vessel which is slowly sinking, not the sudden collision and immediate capsizing which occurred, which was beyond the scope of the life-saving equipment available.
         1. Life jackets floating free in the river did aid two people remain afloat and reaching the safety of the overturned ferry.
         2. The rescue boat of the Ollie K. Wilds served its designed purpose; that is, rescue of a few individuals from the river. It could not have coped with a large number of survivors in the water, if, for instance, the overturned ferry did not remain afloat.
   5. The response of the Ollie K. Wilds, commercial towboats, and the local Coast Guard units was commendable. Had the ferry not overturned so rapidly, their immediate response would have been instrumental in saving a number of lives. Unfortunately, the first rescuers were only able to find and rescue two survivors from the river; other survivors made their way onto the overturned hull.
   1. Circumstances of the collision prevent the usual application of the "Western Rivers Rules of the Road", which state that a vessel to the starboard has right-of-way (which is why all powered vessels have a red light facing to port, and a green light facing to starboard). George Prince was expected to do one of three things: head down river to pass behind the Frosta, slow and/or stop midstream and wait for the Frosta to pass, or proceed directly across to the West Bank. Only two minutes elapsed between the departure of the ferry and the collision. Since there was doubt as to the intention of the George Prince, and there was no response to attempts to determine the ferry's intentions, the duty of the pilot of the Frosta was to immediately reverse engine and sound the danger signal.
   2. The George Prince proceeded across the busy waterway apparently oblivious to the imminent danger. Auletta apparently never sighted the Frosta, nor did he hear the radio calls or horn signals. A reasonably alert pilot would have seen the ship coming upriver. Even though a strict application of the "Rules of the Road" gave the George Prince the right-of-way, this of course does not give the right to proceed into harm's way without taking any evasive maneuvers.
   3. Neither vessel took any early or substantial action to avoid the collision.
   4. Auletta's judgement and reaction were certainly impaired by the 0.09% blood alcohol content, although to what degree can not be known, although three areas have been well established as effected by alcohol levels under 0.10%:
         1. steadiness, orientation, and balance,
         2. attention, memory, and information processing,
         3. peripheral vision and visual field
   5. In this circumstance, the ability of the eyes to adjust to darkness, to detect moving targets at low levels of illumination, and mental attentiveness are all effected. The Commandant states,"It is imperative that the deck watch of any vessel be in complete control of his faculties", and the evidence shows that Auletta was not in control of his faculties, as it is inconceivable that such an experienced mariner could either ignore or fail to see the Frosta unless his faculties were impaired.
   6. The captain of the Ollie K Wilds stated that the windows of his pilot house were closed, and that he did not hear the Frosta's horn. A previous accident involving the George Prince followed a similar scenario. On that occasion, the captain of the ferry stated that he did not hear the sounding of vehicle horns or the shouts of passengers. The morning of the accident, the windows were likely closed, and this may have prevented Auletta from hearing the Frosta's horn. Therefore, it is imperative that a lookout be designated and posted outside to listen for and relay signals from other vessels.
With the opening of the Destrehan-Luling Bridge in October 1983 — barely a mile upstream from the ferry landings — the ferry ceased operations. At the dedication of the bridge, both Governor David C. Treen and Bishop Stanley Ott remembered those killed in the accident.
The asphalt ramps to the tops of the levees still exist, but have fallen into disrepair.
The disaster was all but officially forgotten until 2006, when historian and filmmaker Royd Anderson wrote and directed the documentary The Luling Ferry Disaster for his Master's thesis project in Communication at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The film was released on the 30th anniversary of the disaster and sparked a movement to bring a memorial for the victims and survivors to St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. Soon after the movie's release, on November 6, 2006, local government officials voted to have 2 memorials constructed, but the issue lost traction after those elected officials were not re-elected the following year. Anderson raised the issue again to the newly elected parish president and officials, bringing a score of relatives of the victims to a council meeting on January 28, 2009. A memorial committee led by St. Charles Parish Councilman Larry Cochran was formed soon afterwards, comprised of family members and friends of the deceased, St. Charles Parish Council members, and concerned citizens, including Anderson. The committee met for several months, voting on where the monument should be placed and what it should look like. St. Charles Parish Councilman Paul J. Hogan, an architect, created the design for the monument. Local suppliers, vendors, companies, and individuals donated the equipment, labor, and materials to build it. The memorial was unveiled in a solemn ceremony at the East Bank Bridge Park in Destrehan on October 17, 2009, with over 300 people in attendance. A bell rang as each name was called; a white balloon rose in memory of the deceased, and a blue balloon rose in memory of the survivors. By the end, 95 balloons were drifting slowly over the Mississippi River near the spot where the accident occurred.

Crew of George Prince
The entire crew of the ferry died.
Egidio Auletta, pilot, Destrehan, Louisiana
Nelson Eugene, Sr., deckhand, St. Rose, Louisiana
Douglas Ford, deckhand, Boutte, Louisiana
Jerry Randle, engineer, New Sarpy, Louisiana
Ronald Wolfe, deckhand, St. Rose, Louisiana

Deceased passengers of the George Prince

Mark Abadie, LaPlace, Louisiana
Hurest Anderson, LaPlace, Louisiana
Glen Barreca, Norco, Louisiana
John Basso, Independence, Louisiana
Thomas Beasley, Destrehan, Louisiana
Anthony Breaux, LaPlace, Louisiana
Jerry Brown, Jr., LaPlace, Louisiana
Martin Campbell, Destrehan, Louisiana
Jim Carter, Sr., Ponchatoula, Louisiana
Harry Clement, Tickfaw, Louisiana
Richard Cobb, Hammond, Louisiana
Oscar Dermody, Kenner, Louisiana
Dwight Dobson, Hammond, Louisiana
Melvin Dright, Jr., Kenner, Louisiana
Herman Eugene, Jr., Garyville, Louisiana
Lenwood Fenroy, LaPlace, Louisiana
Al Fleming, Garyville, Louisiana
Charles Frank, Jr., Metairie, Louisiana
Benny Fuller, Metairie, Louisiana
Jimmy Gast, Destrehan, Louisiana
Ervin Gehegan, Hammond, Louisiana
Otis Gehegan, Hammond, Louisiana
John Goldston, Jr., Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Oscar Green, Ridgeland, Louisiana
(Possible typo in USCG report: there is no Ridgeland, LA,
however, there is a Ridgeland, Mississippi
Ronnie Hall, Destrehan, Louisiana
Joseph Harris, Tallulah, Louisiana
Paul Harris, LaPlace, Louisiana
Willie Harris, Tallulah, Louisiana
Joseph Hastings, Jr., Kenner, Louisiana
Henry Hills, Jr., Hammond, Louisiana
Larry Hills, Hammond, Louisiana (son of Henry Hills, Jr.)
Hollis Hodges, Cocoa, Florida (father of Kim and Barry Hodges)
Edgar Holmes, Ponchatoula, Louisiana
James Hughes, Independence, Louisiana
Timothy Hymel, Reserve, Louisiana
Robert Jones, Jr., Metairie, Louisiana
Lindsay LeBlanc, Norco, Louisiana
Mary Lightsey, Destrehan, Louisiana
Lonie Marts, Kenner, Louisiana
Charles McKeithen, Kenner, Louisiana
Joseph Michelli, Hammond, Louisiana
Hubert Minor, Jr., Kenner, Louisiana
Roosevelt Mixon, Kenner, Louisiana
Anthony Monistere, Hammond, Louisiana
Barry Moore, Kenner, Louisiana
William Moore, New Sarpy, Louisiana
Robert Newton, Sr., Van Cleave, Mississippi
Joseph Nicolosi, Sr., Hammond, Louisiana
Terry Norton, Kenner, Louisiana
Benjamin Pape, Jr., Ponchatoula, Louisiana
Eddie Plaisance, Jr., Metairie, Louisiana
Larry Pontiff, Kenner, Louisiana
Kevin Pritchett, Destrehan, Louisiana
Jeffrey Quarles, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Darrel Rodriguez, Ponchatoula, Louisiana
Elmore Schexnayder, LaPlace, Louisiana
Ronald Schexnayder, Norco, Louisiana
Adolph Smith, Sr., Destrehan, Louisiana
Ivory Smith, Garyville, Louisiana
Arthur Snyder, LaPlace, Louisiana
Richard Songy, Sr., Norco, Louisiana
Michael Stewart, Metairie, Louisiana
Anita Stadler, St. Rose, Louisiana
Rafael Tolentino, Destrehan, Louisiana
Anestasia Wanko, New Orleans, Louisiana
Michael Webre, Metairie, Louisiana
Jessie Wheat, Jr., Hammond, Louisiana
Johnny Williams, Jr., St. Rose, Louisiana
Leon Williams, Kenner, Louisiana
Steven Williamson, Kenner, Louisiana
Eastmon Willie, Ponchatoula, Louisiana

Survivors of the George Prince (all passengers)

Leroy Acosta, LaPlace, Louisiana
Charles Allen, Destrehan, Louisiana
Kenneth Becnel, Destrehan, Louisiana
Erwin Blue, New Sarpy, Louisiana
Brian Broussard, Gonzales, Louisiana
David Broussard, Prairieville, Louisiana
Charles Chatelain, River Ridge, Louisiana
Blair Duhe, Norco, Louisiana
Allen Fisher, LaPlace, Louisiana
Milton Lachney, Luling, Louisiana
George Lingo, Hammond, Louisiana
Dan McLendon, Destrehan, Louisiana
Charles Maples, Destrehan, Louisiana
Charles Naquin, St. Rose, Louisiana
Barry Neyrey, Metairie, Louisiana
Vincent Pardo, Tickfaw, Louisiana
Richard Respess, River Ridge, Louisiana
Gene Woolverton, Destrehan, Louisiana

None of the crew of the SS Frosta were injured or killed in the accident.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Amish School Shooting of 2006

Various accounts and photos concerning the Amish School Shooting Tragedy. It's victim's will not be forgotten.

Charles Roberts ... left the Amish community shocked after walking into the one-room schoolhouse and shooting the girls.

October 2nd, 2006. It was a typical fall day. Birds could be heard in the distance and little else, except maybe the clip-clop of a horse's hoofs and the rattling of a buggy heading down a back country road. It's normally quiet and peaceful in the rolling Amish farmlands of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

But that peace was shattered when the sound of gunfire was heard from inside an Amish school. When local police broke into the one-room Amish schoolhouse they found 10 Amish girls ages 6-13 had been shot by Charles Carl Roberts IV, who had then committed suicide.

School shootings are a far too frequent occurrence in this country. But this case openly displayed a clash of two different cultures - the modern, more "advanced" American society and the withdrawn community of the Amish, who intentionally attempt to distance themselves from worldly influences. The violence that is far too common in one society blasted its way into the non-violent, peaceful community of "the gentle people".

The shooting took place at the West Nickel Mines Amish School, located about 12 miles southeast of Lancaster City. Nickel Mines is just a crossroads within Bart Township, a local municipality with a population of roughly 3,000 Amish and English (the Amish term for the non-Amish).

The school was a typical Amish one-room school with a school bell on the roof, two outhouses, a ball field, and an enclosed schoolyard. It was built in 1976. On the blackboard was a sign with a teddy bear. The sign read "Visitors Bubble Up Our Days". Twenty-six children, ages 6-13, from three different local Amish church districts attended this school.

Charlie Roberts was a milk truck driver who serviced the local community, including the farms of some of the victims' families. Nine years earlier his wife Amy gave birth to their first child, a baby girl. However, the baby died after living only 20 minutes. Apparently his daughter's death affected him greatly. He never forgave God for her death, and eventually planned to get revenge.

On the morning of October 2nd Roberts said goodbye to two of his own children at the school bus stop, then drove to the West Nickel Mines Amish School. When he walked in the door, some of the children recognized him. That day the school had four adult visitors - the teacher's mother, her sister, and two sisters-in-law. One of the women was pregnant. When the young teacher saw his guns, she and her mother left the other adults with the children and ran to a nearby house for help. A call was made to 911.

The pregnant visitor was trying to comfort 7-year old Naomi Rose when Roberts ordered the adults to leave. Then he told the boys to leave. The boys huddled near an outhouse to pray. Roberts had the 10 girls lie down facing the blackboard and he tied their hands and feet. Roberts told the girls he was sorry for what he was about to do, but "I'm angry at God and I need to punish some Christian girls to get even with him."

When the state police arrived, Roberts ordered them to leave the property or he would shoot. He told the girls, "I'm going to make you pay for my daughter." One of the girls, 13-year old Marian, said, "Shoot me first." Roberts began shooting each of the girls before finally shooting himself. When the police broke in to the school, two of the girls, including Marian, were dead. Naomi Rose died in the arms of a state trooper.

Emergency personnel arrived quickly, and helicopters flew the wounded to hospitals in Lancaster, Hershey, Reading, and Delaware. Two sisters died later that night in two different area hospitals. Amish parents tried to console themselves by saying the five girls who had died were "safe in the arms of Jesus."

Word about the shooting spread quickly throughout the Amish community. The shooting was reported on local television stations, and was soon picked up by the national media. Reporters, photographers, and video crews invaded this rural countryside to report this story around the world. While the Amish community strives to avoid publicity, this tragic event thrust their community in front of a worldwide audience.

The Amish were obviously shocked by this incident and they collectively grieved for the children and their families. But that shock extended far beyond just the Amish. This tragedy rocked all of Lancaster County. The day after the shooting, 1600 gathered for a prayer service at one local church, while hundreds more met at other churches for prayer. All Lancaster County shared in the horror and grief of this tragedy. As one Amishman said, "Today, we're all Amish."

Some individuals and organizations hosted barbecues and other events to raise financial support for the victims' funds. Over 3,000 motorcyclists rode together from nearby Chester County to Lancaster in a procession over 12 miles long. They raised over $30,000 in support.

A number of funds were set up to accept donations for the families of the Amish girls who were shot, and for Roberts' wife and three young children. Donations and sympathy flowed in not only from Lancaster County but from across the county and around the world. For months volunteers met at the Bart Twp. Firehouse to sort through thousands of cards, letters, teddy bears, and other gifts from around the world. Some were addressed simply to "Amish Families, USA".

In all, over four million dollars was raised in support of the families.

The horror of this school shooting was the story the reporters came to tell about. However, in the hours and days following the shooting another story developed that also caught the world's attention - the story of Amish forgiveness.

The following is from Wikipedia:

The Amish school shooting refers to an attack that occurred at the West Nickel Mines School, an Amish one-room schoolhouse in the Old Order Amish community of Nickel Mines, a village in Bart Township of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, United States, on October 2, 2006. Gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV took hostages and eventually shot and killed five girls (aged 6–13) before committing suicide in the schoolhouse.
The emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation in the response of the Amish community was widely discussed in the national media. The West Nickel Mines School was torn down, and a new one-room schoolhouse, the New Hope School, was built at another location.
The hostage-taking
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The gunman, Charles Carl Roberts, backed a pickup truck up to the front of the Amish schoolhouse and entered the school at approximately 10:25 a.m. EDT, shortly after the children had returned from recess. He allegedly asked the teacher, Emma Mae Zook, and the students if they had seen a clevis pin missing along the road. Survivors later recounted that Roberts was mumbling his words and was not making direct eye contact with anyone. After the occupants of the classroom denied seeing any such object, Roberts walked out to his truck and reappeared in the classroom holding a 9mm handgun. He ordered the male students to help him carry items into the classroom from the back of his pickup. Zook and her mother, who was visiting the schoolhouse, took this opportunity to escape the school and ran towards a nearby farm to get help. Roberts saw the people leave, and ordered one of the boys to stop them, threatening to shoot everyone if the women got away. Still, Zook and her mother managed to reach the farm, where they asked Amos Smoker to call 911.
Roberts and the young boys carried lumber, a shotgun, a stun-gun, wires, chains, nails, tools and a small bag. Also brought into the classroom was a length of wooden board with multiple sets of metal eyehooks, presumably to be used for securing the victims. The contents of the bag included a change of clothes, toilet paper, candles, sexual lubricant, and flexible plastic ties. Using wooden boards, Roberts barricaded the front door.
Hostages taken
He ordered the female children to line up against the chalkboard and allowed a pregnant woman, three parents with infants, and all remaining male students to exit the building. One female student also escaped: nine-year-old Emma Fisher (whose two older sisters remained inside).The nine-year old, who spoke only Pennsylvania German, had not understood Robert's order, "Stay here. Do not move, YOU WILL BE SHOT." and followed her brother, Peterli, out of the building, leaving ten hostages.
Police notified
The 911 call from the farm where Zook and her mother sought help was recorded at 10:36 a.m. In an article entitled Revisiting the Amish Schoolhouse Massacre,published August 22, 2007, the situation is described prior to the arrival of the first state police troopers: "An Amish adult male from this farm, with his two large dogs, took the bold opportunity to stealthily approach the windowless back wall of the schoolhouse. Hoping for an opportunity to help the little girls, he slowly crept around one side of the wooden structure and positioned himself as an observer next to a side window." The detailed accounting of the police response continues, "Observing that the first police patrol vehicle to approach the scene was not slowing down to stop, the Amish man quickly withdrew from his hiding place and sprinted towards the roadway to wave down the trooper, who did a fast U-turn and parked. That would be the last successful attempt at an unnoticed move upon the building by anyone."
Police and emergency medical personnel arrive
The first trooper arrived at approximately 10:42 a.m. Additional troopers continued to arrive within minutes immediately afterwards.
Roberts was binding the arms and legs of his hostages with plastic ties. A group of troopers approached the schoolhouse. Aware of this, Roberts warned the troopers to leave immediately, threatening to shoot the girls. The police officers backed away and formed a nearby perimeter, but did not leave the premises as requested.
The police, while waiting for reinforcements, attempted to communicate with Roberts via the PA system in their cruisers.[7] They asked Roberts to throw out his weapons and exit the schoolhouse. Roberts refused, again ordering the officers to leave.
By 11:00 a.m. a large crowd—including police officers, emergency medical technicians, and residents of the village—had assembled both outside the schoolhouse and at a nearby ambulance staging area. County and state police dispatchers had briefly established telephone contact with Roberts as he continued to threaten violence against the children.
During interviews conducted later it became apparent that all girls knew of their fate. Some conversed among themselves throughout the ordeal. Shortly before Roberts opened fire, two sisters, Marian and Barbie Fisher, 13 and 11, requested that they be shot first that the others might be spared. Barbie was wounded, while her older sister was killed.
A child's loud screaming was heard from within the school. A team of officers was positioned just behind a shed attached to the rear corner of the schoolhouse and they requested permission over the radio to approach the windows. The permission was denied.
The shooting
At approximately 11:07 a.m., Roberts began shooting the victims. The troopers immediately approached. As the first trooper in line reached a window, the shooting abruptly stopped. Roberts had committed suicide.
 The rescue
It took the troopers about two and a half minutes to break into the school to assist those children who were not killed instantly. At about 11:10 a.m. a message was broadcast on the police radio "a mass casualty on White Oak Road, Bart Township, with multiple children shot."  and "at 11:11 a.m., police radioed dispatchers again, estimating 10 to 12 patients with head injuries. The first medical helicopter was dispatched."
Troopers assisted the surviving children, administering first aid as they carried them outside. The troopers continued to tend to the girls, helping the Emergency Medical Technicians provide first aid on the school playground. Ambulances arrived just as the wounded girls were being carried out of the schoolhouse. Helicopters landed shortly thereafter and those still living were taken away for medical treatment.
Three girls died at the scene and two more died early the next morning, with five more left in critical condition. All of the victims that survived the immediate attack were brought to Lancaster General Hospital, stabilized, and then transferred to hospitals with pediatric trauma care. Three of the children were admitted to Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, four to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and one to Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware, reported a state police spokesman.
One of the surviving children was initially transported to The Reading Hospital and Medical Center via helicopter, and then transported to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia after being stabilized.
Reports stated that most of the girls were shot "execution-style" in the back of the head.The ages of the victims ranged from six to thirteen.
According to the Washington Post, police and coroner accounts of the children's wounds differed dramatically; Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Jeffrey Miller said Roberts shot his victims in the head at close range, with 17 or 18 shots fired in all, including the one he used to take his own life as police stormed into the school by breaking through the window glass. However, Janice Ballenger, deputy coroner in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, told The Washington Post in an interview that she counted at least two dozen bullet wounds in one child alone before asking a colleague to continue for her.
Inside the school, Ballenger said, "there was not one desk, not one chair, in the whole schoolroom that was not splattered with either blood or glass. There were bullet holes everywhere, everywhere."
As a result of their actions in the line of duty, State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller presented the State Police Medal of Honor to ten Pennsylvania State Troopers in appreciation for their efforts to assist the victims.
 Amish response with forgiveness
On the day of the shooting, a grandfather of one of the murdered Amish girls was heard warning some young relatives not to hate the killer, saying, "We must not think evil of this man." Another Amish father noted, "He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he's standing before a just God."
Jack Meyer, a member of the Brethren community living near the Amish in Lancaster County, explained: "I don't think there's anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts."
A Roberts family spokesman said an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them. Amish community members visited and comforted Roberts' widow, parents, and parents-in-law. One Amish man held Roberts' sobbing father in his arms, reportedly for as long as an hour, to comfort him. The Amish have also set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter.About 30 members of the Amish community attended Roberts' funeral,and Marie Roberts, the widow of the killer, was one of the few outsiders invited to the funeral of one of the victims.Marie Roberts wrote an open letter to her Amish neighbors thanking them for their forgiveness, grace, and mercy. She wrote, "Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need. Gifts you've given have touched our hearts in a way no words can describe. Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you."
The Amish do not normally accept charity, but due to the extreme nature of the tragedy, donations were accepted. Richie Lauer, director of the Anabaptist Foundation, said the Amish community, whose religious beliefs prohibit them from having health insurance, will likely use the donations to help pay the medical costs of the hospitalized children.
Some commentators criticized the swift and complete forgiveness with which the Amish responded, arguing that forgiveness is inappropriate when no remorse has been expressed, and that such an attitude runs the risk of denying the existence of evil; others were supportive.Donald Kraybill and two other scholars of Amish life noted that "letting go of grudges" is a deeply-rooted value in Amish culture, which remembers forgiving martyrs including Dirk Willems and Jesus himself. They explained that the Amish willingness to forgo vengeance does not undo the tragedy or pardon the wrong, but rather constitutes a first step toward a future that is more hopeful.
 Schoolhouse demolished
The West Nickel Mines School was demolished the following week, on October 12, 2006. The site was left as a quiet pasture.A new schoolhouse, called the New Hope School, was built at a different location, near the original site. It opened on April 2, 2007, precisely six months after the shooting. The new school was intentionally built as "different" as possible from the original, including the style of the flooring.
Possible motives
Roberts, who was at the time a resident of nearby Georgetown, another unincorporated area of Bart Township, was last seen by his wife at 8:45 a.m. when they walked their children to the bus stop before leaving. When Mrs. Roberts returned home a little before 11:00 a.m., she discovered four suicide notes; one addressed to herself and one to each of their three children.
Roberts called his wife from the schoolhouse on his cell phone and told her that he had molested two young female relatives (between the ages of 3 and 5) twenty years previously (when he was 12) and had been daydreaming about molesting again.
One note Roberts left behind indicated his despondency over a daughter who died approximately twenty minutes after birth nine years earlier. He stated that he had "been having dreams for the past couple of years about doing what he did 20 years ago and he has dreams of doing them again", according to State Police Commissioner Colonel Jeffrey B. Miller.
On October 4, 2006, the two relatives whom Roberts said he molested 20 years ago told police that no such abuse had ever happened, throwing a new layer of mystery over the gunman's motive and mental state during the shooting.
Miller said there was no evidence any of the Amish children had been molested.
    * Naomi Rose Ebersol, aged 7, died at the scene October 2, 2006.
    * Marian Stoltzfus Fisher, aged 13, died at the scene October 2, 2006.
    * Anna Mae Stoltzfus, aged 12, was declared dead on arrival at Lancaster General Hospital, Lancaster, Pennsylvania October 2, 2006.
    * Lena Zook Miller, aged 7, died at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania on October 3, 2006.
    * Mary Liz Miller, aged 8, died at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware on October 3, 2006.
All of the surviving Amish schoolgirls were hospitalized.
    * Rosanna King, 6 years old, was removed from life support at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and sent home at the request of her family on October 4, 2006. Some reports claim the child showed signs of recovery and was sent back to the hospital. Her condition improved, though she is still greatly impaired from the shooting and remains at home.
    * Rachel Ann Stoltzfus, 8 years old
    * Barbie Fisher, 10 years old
    * Sarah Ann Stoltzfus, 12 years old
    * Esther King, 13 years old
The girls wounded in the shooting made measurable progress in the year since the shooting. Sara Ann Stoltzfus, now 13, did not have full vision in her left eye but was back at school — she was not expected to survive. Barbie Fisher, 11, was pitching in school softball but had undergone another shoulder operation in hopes of strengthening her right arm. Rachel Ann Stoltzfus, 9, returned to school in the months after the shooting. Esther King, 14, returned to school in the months after shooting, graduated and was working on the family farm.The youngest victim, Rosanna King, 6, wasn't expected to survive and was sent home to die there. She had serious brain injuries and does not walk or talk as of December 2009[update]. Rosanna is confined to a wheelchair, but is said to recognize family members and frequently smiles.
 911 transcripts
On October 10, 2006, the 911 transcripts were released.
Transcript of 911 calls made October 2, 2006 in connection with gunman Charles Carl Robert IV’s siege at an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa. The callers identified in the transcript: Amos Smoker, the same man who telephoned 911 reporting the armed invader at the school, Roberts and Robert's wife, Marie. In some cases the transcript indicates the line went dead because the call was transferred to state police and was not recorded by Lancaster County.
At 10:35, Amos Smoker placed the call on behalf of the school teacher, Emma Mae Zook, who had run to a nearby farm to summon help. About the time of this initial call for help, a pregnant woman, three parents with infants, and all fifteen male students were told to leave the school by Roberts. The first police officer arrived approximately six minutes later. As the first few troopers approached the building, Roberts ordered them to leave or else he would start shooting. An agitated Roberts continued to demand that police leave as the troopers attempted to communicate with Roberts via the PA system in their cruisers
At 10:41, a second caller reported the incident, and was transferred to the State Police.
At 10:55, Roberts was reaching the final stages of his plan. The bound girls had been arranged at the front of the classroom, near the chalkboard. Roberts made two cell phone calls, one to his wife and the next one to police. He warned the 911 dispatcher that if state police were not off the property in two seconds, he would kill the children. The dispatcher attempted to delay him and put him in touch with the State Police, but Roberts ended the call. Two of the girls then began negotiating with Roberts. They plead for him to shoot them first. This allowed the girls a little extra time for possible rescue. At approximately 11:07 a.m., Roberts follows through with his threats and the sound of rapid gunfire was heard.
At 10:58, Mrs. Roberts called 911 after arriving home from a prayer study group meeting. She had discovered a suicide note left on the kitchen table and had received a brief and disturbing emotional phone call from her husband. The 911 dispatcher put her in touch with State Police.

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