Little Bits of History

May 2

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 2, 2017

1994: The Polish bus disaster takes place. Przedsiębiorstwo Komunikacji Samochodowej (PKS) which roughly translated means Motor Transport Company was created in 1945. The Communist run enterprise had a near monopoly on suburban bus travel until recently when it was broken up and many new companies were privatized. Their first major disaster struck in 1978 30 people died as two buses plunged off a bridge into Żywiec Lake, located in southern Poland. The buses dropped 60 feet into the water below.

On this day, Jerzy Marczyński was driving an Autosan H9-21 bus. The Polish bus was sturdily built and able to maneuver on the many poor quality back roads in Poland. The bus had traveled to Zawory and made a scheduled twenty minute stop in the city. It then began the trip back to Gdańsk with only two passengers aboard. The bus made several stops, each having more people boarding the bus. Chimielenek, Chmielno, and Kartuzy stops each had several more people board and at Żukowo, the bus made an unscheduled stop at the request of passengers already on board. More people boarded the bus. When the bus stopped at Leźno another eight people boarded.

The maximum number of passengers the bus should have held was 51 which even left some people without seats. The maximum seating capacity was 39 and it was considered safe for another 12 people to stand. However, there were 74 passengers on the bus. The bus had traveled about twenty miles and was less than a half mile before the next scheduled stop at Gdańsk-Kokoszki. The bus was attempting to pass a truck when it suddenly veered off the road and explosively crashed into a tree with such force that the tree was wedged about fourteen feet into the bus. Twenty-five passengers died immediately, five died shortly after a rescue attempt, and two more died at the hospital. The driver survived.

After a year and a half investigation into the wreck, it was found that the cause of the crash was a right front tire explosion. There were three contributing factors which included the overcrowding of the bus, the excessive speed (60 km/h rather than the 50 km/h or 37 mph instead of 31 mph, and the generally poor condition of the 11 year old bus. There had been a total of 32 people killed and another 45 were injured, so everyone on the bus suffered some trauma. This remains the worst road disaster in Poland’s history. The tree was cut down in 2008, unrelated to this event.

We always knew how to honor fallen soldiers. They were killed for our sake, they went out on our mission. But how are we to mourn a random man killed in a terrorist attack while sitting in a cafe? How do you mourn a housewife who got on a bus and never returned? – A. B. Yehoshua

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. – Oprah Winfrey

I wanted to be a bus driver when I was a kid. I look at bus driving through the eyes of a little boy. I see it as glamorous. – Jim Lehrer

Art has to move you and design does not, unless it’s a good design for a bus. – David Hockney

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