FATAL COLLISION BETWEEN A US ARMY TRUCK
AND A TRAILER BUS, AT ROCKLEA,
BRISBANE, QLD, ON 14 APRIL 1944

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Three aircraft workers from Archerfield airfield were killed and 13 others were injured when a US Army truck collided with a large semi-trailer type bus owned by the Department of Aircraft Production at Stable Swamp Creek Bridge, Ipswich Road, Rocklea, Brisbane on the night of 14 April 1944.

Those killed were as follows:-

Mrs. Doreen Winifred Scooth, aged 29 years of Nathan Terrace, Yeerongpilly
George Squire Beevers, 44 years, married of Sydney Street, New Farm
Laurs Andersen, 63 years, of Brooks Street, Highgate Hill

Clarence Gordon Mildenhall, the bus driver stated "The negro on the American truck came right across and crashed into my bus."


Photo:- Chuck Hathorn

The large semi-trailer type bus may have looked like this  USAAF
bus in front of the Townsville Railway Station during WWII

Sergeant James Nichol, of the Moorooka Police Station, giving evidence at an Inquest led by Coroner, Mr. J.J. Leahy, S.M. on 26 April 1944, stated that the negro soldier, Harold Waldron, was under the influence of liquor but was not drunk. He based this assessment on the fact that Waldron was slightly unsteady on his feet, and he could smell alcohol on his breath. Waldron, said that he had kept as far over to the left as he could on the bridge and was doing 35 miles an hour.

Mildenhall had left Archerfield airfield at about 6:07pm  to drop a group of workers from Archerfield airfield to the Moorooka tram line. Mildenhall stated that as he was going onto the bridge from the Oxley side, a military ambulance passed him going off the bridge. At the same time he saw the head lights of another vehicle entering the bridge from the city end. When Mildenhall was about halfway across the bridge the headlights of the oncoming vehicle veered in towards him, and he swung hard to the left, and was able to pull over only a foot or so, as he was already fairly close to the left side of the bridge. As his driving cabin was passing the front of the other vehicle he heard the sound of breaking glass, and then a crash down the off side of the bus. Mildenhall said that he applied the brakes, and pulled in close on the left side just off the bridge.

Mildenhall estimated that his speed at the time of the collision was at about 25 miles an hour. He did not know the speed of the military truck, but said that it seemed to be going pretty fast. Mildenhall stated that the bridge was very narrow, and he thought the truck driver must have misjudged the width of the bridge.

Two days after the accident, investigators carried out a partial reconstruction of the event. A trailer bus, of similar size and construction, and an American army truck, identical in size and construction to the one involved in the collision, were driven across the bridge at the various speeds to determine the amount of clearance when these vehicles were abreast of each other on the bridge. Both vehicles were able to pass comfortably with an estimated distance of about 2 feet clearance between them.

Traffic accidents with Brisbane City Council trams rose sharply during the WWII years. Commissioner Carroll of the Queensland Police wrote to Brigadier Donaldson, the Commanding Officer of Base Section 3, US Army requesting greater care by the drivers of US Military vehicles. Commissioner Carroll pointed out that between January 1942 and August 1943 Australian Defence Department vehicles had collided with BCC trams on 645 occasions and in the same period US vehicles had collided with BCC trams on 794 occasions.

 

REFERENCES

Article Courier Mail, 27 April 1944

 

 

 

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This page first produced 22 December 2012

This page last updated 24 December 2012