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Tears, Fears Grip Friends, Kin at Santa Monica Seniors’ Home

From United Press International

Friends and relatives of elderly people on a tour bus that skidded off an eastern Sierra highway into a river Friday waited with tears and fear at the senior citizens’ home they shared for word about the victims and the survivors.

“It’s just devastating,” said Ann Abreu, 69, tears welling up in her eyes.

“You hear of people getting heart attacks and stuff like that around here, but this is unreal. It’s so very sad. We all love everyone here.”

Many residents of the Santa Monica Christian Towers, which sponsored the four-day bus tour to Reno, gathered in the lobby of the residence, trying to comfort each other.

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Watch for Names

Some stood before a tiny black-and-white TV set watching the evening news. When names of the injured were flashed on the screen, they crowded closer, gasping or crying as they recognized names of their friends.

One man whose brother was on the bus tried to talk about his fears but stopped. “I can’t, I can’t,” he said, walking silently to his room.

“It’s very sad, because we’re like one big happy family,” said Ida Quaif, manager of the facility. “It’s very, very sad. It’s a horrible tragedy.

“At least 26 of those on the bus were from the building, and the rest were friends from the surrounding area. We don’t have any information on who survived and who was killed. We’re just waiting to hear.”

Skids Off Highway

The Starline Tours bus skidded off a twisting, narrow canyon highway into the surging West Walker River in Northern California, killing 17 people and injuring 24.

Quaif said one woman at the residence, which houses nearly 200 people, cancelled out on the trip at the last minute because of illness. Her husband went ahead without her, and she was waiting to hear if he had survived.

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“I was supposed to be on the bus myself,” she added, “but I had a little problem and couldn’t go. If I had, I would have been in the front seat.”

Stuck in River

The vehicle was partially submerged in the roaring river.

Quaif said the tour group left Santa Monica Tuesday morning, stayed at the MGM Grand Hotel in Reno, and was to arrive home Friday night.

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“Everything was fine,” she said, “until the accident happened.”


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