Deadly accident drives Hatfields to campaign for bus seat belts
A deadly head-on crash between a Honda Accord and a bus late Wednesday near Clatskanie left two prominent passengers on the bus promising to
champion a new cause for rider safety.
Former Sen. Mark 0. Hatfield and his wife, Antoinette, said Thursday that all buses -- especially school buses should be equipped with seat belts and that passengers be required by state law to wear them.
The Hatfields suffered bruises and scratches in the wreck, which killed three people in the Honda and injured several of the 25 other passengers on the bus. Five people, including the Hatfields, were taken to St. John Medical Center in Longview, Wash.', then released.
The Hatfields said they flew through the air and smashed into seats and other passengers when the bus collided with the Honda on U.S. 30 about six miles west of Clatskanie.
I would not have had any of these injuries if I had been strapped in," Antoinette Hatfield said. "We can't teach our children to use seat belts if we don't even have them in school buses."
Mark Hatfield, who retired in 1997 from a 30-year U.S. Senate career, said he wants to launch an effort to change the law.
Crash: Victims were going to family reunion
"If he doesn't, I will," his wife added.
The crash killed three Warrenton residents in the Honda: Chelley A. Moses, 35; her sister, Jami A. Smith, 18; and the driver, Joshua Ryan Smith, 17, a friend of Jami Smith's
Moses and Jami Smith were on their way to pick up another sister before heading to a family reunion near Roseburg. Each summer, between 50 and 100 members of their family gather.
Now family members are heading to Warrenton to mourn.
"We want everybody to pray that they don't have to go through this," said Danny Kilmer, the older brother of Moses and Smith.
Moses and her husband, Jim, moved to the Warrenton area five years ago from Concrete, Wash., and recently purchased a restaurant, Arnie's Cafe. They had two sons: Rick, 16; and Dallas, 10.
Jami Smith was to be a senior at Warrenton High School. She was still deciding what she wanted to do with her life but knew that college somehow fit into the plan, Kilmer said.
Lt. Dale Rutledge of the Oregon State Police said Joshua Smith was driving the 1991 Honda east shortly after 5 p.m. when the car crossed the center line and slammed into the Raz Transportation bus.
The bus passengers included employees of Endeavour Capital, a Portland investment company. The company has provided Mark Hatfield with an office since his retirement.
The passengers were on their way to a dinner aboard the H.M. Bark Endeavour, the company's namesake, a replica of the ship that Capt. James Cook sailed on during the late 1700s. The ship is visiting Astoria as part of a world tour.
The Raz charter bus left Endeavour Capital's offices at 4380 S.W. Macadam Blvd. about 3:30 p.m. As the passengers took their seats, several noted that the bus lacked safety belts, something motor coaches are not required to have.
"Several people were noting it," Antoinette Hatfield said. "You're used to getting in and putting it on. You always feel naked without a seat belt."
The Hatfields sat four rows behind the driver, on the left side of the bus.
As the bus traveled west on U.S. 30, Antoinette Hatfield dozed as her husband looked out the bus windshield.
He noticed a car coming right at the bus. He kept expecting the car to swerve back into its own lane.
"The next thing I realized, we had the impact of hitting metal," Mark Hatfield said. "I saw it full blast."
Antoinette Hatfield awoke suddenly when she heard someone on the bus yell just before the Honda smashed head-on into the bus.
The impact sent the bus off the road down and onto the highway shoulder, rocking the bus suddenly to the right.
The sudden jolt shot the Hatfields out of their seats. Mark Hatfield flew into the right-hand row of seats and crumpled into the aisle. Antoinette Hatfield, sitting next to the window, flew even farther
"There was nothing to hang on to," Antoinette Hatfield, 70, said. "No railing or strap. The fabric was slick. There was no way you could brace yourself."
The bus came to rest tipped nearly 45 degrees to the right. The Hatfields praised the driver, Eric Eugene Dulin, 40, 'saying he kept his composure through the ordeal.
"He was very cool," Mark Hatfield, 77, said. "He had his first-aid kit out within moments. He just took charge."
The Hatfields and other passengers were pulled from the bus by a three-member painting crew who pulled their truck over to help.
The men propped their painting ladders against the tilted bus and helped the passengers climb out an open window. Mark, Hatfield said the men declined to give their names before leaving the scene.
"I just want to pay tribute to these good Samaritans," he said.
Antoinette Hatfield reiterated her determination to pursue seat belts for buses.
"This is an issue I am committed to now," she said. "I've been such a model political wife. I've never taken on an issue on my own. But now I have my own political crusade."
You can reach Brent Walth at 503-294-5072 or by e-mail at email@example.com. You can reach Jonathan Nelson at 503-543-8366 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.