It was a somber day at the Congers Lake Memorial Park on March 24 as many faces came out to express their condolences for the 50th anniversary of the Gilchrest Road crossing accident. The anniversary was marked by the Town of Clarkstown as a commemoration to remember the lives of those lost during the horrific accident that sparked new public transit regulations across the country.
Due to the accident, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles established article 19-A two years later in 1974, which provides special requirements for bus drivers. Town of Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann started off the ceremony with a remark about the tragedy. He highlighted the scene of the accident, and commended the speed and skill of the first responders who treated children at the scene of the accident. Hoehmann identified and thanked Dr. Saul Freedman, who was chief of Emergency Medicine at Nyack Hospital at the time of the crash and was extensively involved in the treatment of the victims. “Remarkably, within 38 minutes, all the students were transported to Nyack Hospital,” said the Supervisor.
The ceremony was held to remember Thomas Grosse, Richard Macaylo, James McGuinness, Robert Mauterer, and Stephen Ward. The Clarkstown Police Honor Guard took part in laying the wreath dedicated to the victims of the tragedy.
Nyack Public Schools BOE Trustee Michael Mark was also in attendance. “In their honor we will remain Nyack strong in our resolve to do our best work for our students,” he said. One of the survivors of the crash, William Thomsen, also expressed his condolences and remembrance of the horrific incident. “Safety is always a paramount importance. We always strive to develop systems that transport people safely. I am forever grateful for the first responders’ care we were given at the hospital and from the community at large.” Montefiore Nyack Hospital’s CEO Mark Geller also came out to speak on his behalf of the hospital’s acts of urgency to help out the victims of the crash. “We also recognize the heroic efforts of emergency personnel and those who rushed to the scene to administer help in many forms,” said Geller.
A resident who no longer lives in the area described how he remembered the impact that the crash left on not only the community but himself. He said, “I went down on Tuesday to the doctor’s and everytime I go down there, I go to see the tree that we planted in the Spring of the crash. That tree is huge, not many know why it’s there with the plaque. Afterwards, I went to check out my grandparent’s grave site, and as I was leaving I took a glance to my left, I saw Jimmy Mcguinness’ resting place. Then I got home and was looking through and saw that there was a celebration today, and here I am.” Before placing the plaque, the speeches concluded with students from the Nyack High School Band performing “Danny Boy”. The plaque is now prominetly on display at the Congers Lake Memorial Park, right outside of the community building.