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Letter: Humboldt tragedy brings back horrific memories of 1951 bus crash in Coniston

'The sight we experienced will never be forgotten'
An archive photo of the 1951 fatal bus crash in Coniston. (Supplied)

As a youngster growing up in Coniston, I can identify with the people in Humboldt and what they are experiencing.

I was 11 years old in 1951 when the tragic train/bus accident happened in our town of 2,000 people.

My sisters were waiting for the 8:15 bus for Sudbury to go to work, and my father was just sitting down for his breakfast (he never took the bus, always walked home from the smelter).

My sisters suddenly ran in the house to declare that there had been a bad accident.

My father got up and ran out the door, my brothers and myself getting ready for school, also ran out after him.

It was -40 F and the air was misty and eerie and bitterly cold.

The sight we experienced will never be forgotten — bodies strewn all over the snowy ground, it was an image that an 11-year-old me will never forget.

Helicopters were hovering above us, from the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail as that time it was considered the worst train accident in Canadian history.

These were all Inco workers coming off the graveyard shift, who were probably sitting in the middle of the bus.

Nine were killed.

Our school friends who lived near the smelter, mostly Ukrainian and Polish, were not seriously injured, thank God.

The funeral, at Our Lady of Mercy Church, will always be remembered, as across the front of the Church there were five open caskets for the parishioners to pray for.

This was a tragedy that stayed with the people of Coniston for a long time.

It was an image that has been ingrained in my memory forever.

Tony Sottile