Selwyn Township walking trail dedicated to teenagers who died in school bus collision with train 50 years ago

A trail in Selwyn Township has been named in memory of two teenage girls who died in a horrific school bus crash 50 years ago

On Nov. 21, 1968, a westbound school bus carrying 48 children en route to Crestwood Secondary School in Peterborough was struck by a westbound freight train along Lily Lake Road. The impact impaled the bus on the locomotive and carried the bus more than 1,000 yards down the tracks.

Two teens who lived on Eastwood Road, just north of Lily Lake Road, died: Shirley Cunningham, 13, and Shelley Riel, 18.

Shirley Cunningham and Shelley Riel died in a school bus collision with a train 50 years ago.

Linda Quackenbush was on the bus that morning.

“All I could think was, what happened? Did we blow a tire? Did we catch on the tracks? But why are we still moving?” she recalled. “And it was a really, rugged … like you were bumping all the way along.

“Then finally the bus stopped and there was dead silence — it was just silence …  and then it was complete bedlam.”

Cheryl Hamilton was in Grade 8 and recalls coming home and seeing her panicked parents.

“My mom was very upset because she had just come home from hospital and one of her nurses was Shelley Riel who was a student nurse,” Hamilton said. “And I remember my dad was really upset because he had driven Mr. Cunningham out to the scene of the accident. So I remembered they were very upset and the most vivid memory is going to the double funeral. All of Shelley’s classmates were there in their nursing uniforms with the white camps and the red stripes which indicated that they were graduates of the Crestwood RNA nursing program.”

On Tuesday, a short ceremony was held on Eastwood Road for the dedication of a walking trail in memory of the two girls. Used for decades by residents, it was officially named the Andrew Trail, named after the unopened road allowance it follows. It connects the subdivisions of Eastwood and Patricia Crescent.

A small plaque was unveiled to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the school bus accident.

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