History: How 26 Children Aged 5-14 Were Buried Alive For 16 Hours(Photos)
Three armed men sit in front of a school bus, with 26 children aged 5 to 14, and invade with nylon stockings over their heads. They pointed a gun to the driver’s head.
They then drag him out of the driver’s seat and one of the gunmen takes the wheel.
And the school bus disappears from the face of the earth. So are the children.
It sounds like a horror movie script, but the fact is that this event actually happened in the United States on July 15, 1976.
It was around 4 p.m. as driver Ed Ray was driving school children home from the school’s annual summer trip to a water amusement park in a town of 20,000, Chowchilla, California. Ray was retiring, he had driven the school bus for so long that he had even driven the grandparents of the children who were now in the car, and them children.
Ray was about halfway there when he saw a van parked across the road, its windows painted black. Ed stopped the school bus and at the same time three armed men rushed into the car, all with nylons over their faces.
A bit like in the movies, and rather bad movies.
One of the men took over driving the school bus, another held a gun after Rey, who had been made to lie on the floor of the car, and the third followed the school bus into the van which had been parked in the middle. of the road.
It was the largest kidnapping in US history.
The kidnappers were Frederick Woods, 24, and brothers Richard and James Schoenfeld, 24 and 22, neighbors and friends since childhood.
The school bus was driven to a nearby river, where another van had been parked, which also had black painted windows and a wooden interior. Ray and the children were forced into the vans, and the terrified children and the driver were then driven for 11 hours, until they reached the mine.
The hostages were then ordered out of the car and down a ladder leading to a buried truck containing some mattresses and a small amount of food.
Then the thieves shoveled dirt and sand onto the truck. The children and Ray had literally been buried alive.
Sixteen hours of horror
It is impossible to imagine the horror experienced by the children and Ray over the next 16 hours.
Ray did his best to keep the kids calm and immediately began planning an escape.
Ray was believed to be performing a unique act of heroism. Photo/48 hours
With the help of the older kids, Ray arranged the mattresses so they could reach the ceiling of the truck. But the thieves not only shoveled the car, they also put steel plates on its roof. In addition, above the steel plates were two industrial batteries, each weighing 50 kilograms.
Hour after hour, Ray and the eldest child, Michael Marshall, attempted to break through the ceiling of the prison in which the children were trapped. They managed to break the roof of the car and after many hours of effort, they managed to push the batteries back.
They then began to shovel the dirt with their only hands, and after sixteen hours, Ray and Michael managed to rise to the surface and pull the children out, one by one.
Then the group of children, accompanied by Ray, walked to the office of the mine, which was several kilometers away.
The victims were mostly physically unharmed, but PTSD still haunts many of them to this day.
The children were buried in the car for 16 hours.
The three kidnappers, Frederick, Richard and James were childhood friends. And while it may sound unbelievable, they came from wealthy people and, among other things, Frederick’s father owned the mine where they buried the car.
But lack of life, depression and foolishness caused the parents of the young men to say nothing more and stop paying them money. They were heavily in debt from drug use and gambling, so they came up with this “clever idea”.
James Schoenfeld later said in an interview that at the time they thought the idea was great.
“We had to rob as many people as possible to be able to claim the highest amount, several million dollars. And everyone loves children, they are the most precious of all and they are easy to dominate. We were sure that the government would pay almost anything to bring them back alive.”
“I thought the state had more than enough to pay for the kids, and I wasn’t going to risk being put in jail for less than a few thousand.” We considered a bank robbery, but it would never have paid off that much. We also tried our hand at drug dealing, but it wasn’t as profitable. We thought that was by far the best idea. It seemed like the perfect crime.”
They decided to demand a ransom of $5 million, the current value of which is $28 million, or about 4 billion Icelandic ISK.
But this brilliant idea was doomed from the start.
At that time, of course, there were no cell phones, and when the trio had finished burying the children and returned home to call the police for the ransom, they were unable to make contact.
All lines were busy as calls poured in from anxious parents and guardians looking for their children.
Eventually they gave up and fell asleep. They woke up on the evening of July 16, the day after the robbery, and turned on the television. All the news programs were full of information about the kidnapping, but what surprised them the most was that the hostages had escaped and were all safe.
It only took a few hours for the police to find the trio and arrest them.
Modified processing options for the future
All were sentenced to life in prison, but Richard Schoenfeld was paroled in 2012 and his brother, James, three years later.
Frederick Woods was paroled last fall despite huge public outcry because he is widely considered a “pack leader”.
Shocked and exhausted but finally free.
Later research on the victims revealed that many people suffered from anxiety attacks, nightmares, depression and panic attacks. Many of them were extremely afraid of the dark and afraid of delivery and transport vehicles. Many of them are still in psychotherapy and some have turned to alcohol and drugs.
The parents are very happy for their children.
The only saving grace is that experts have gained a lot of knowledge about what trauma like this can do to young children and as a result treatment options have changed.
Ray stayed with the children until they were returned to their parents. Photo/48 hours
In 2016, the 25 surviving children – Ray was long dead – sued the kidnappers. The thieves’ parents were then dead, and it is said that at least Frederick Woods received a fine inheritance. They won the case and received the inheritance.
Fred Woods came out last year. But is propertyless.
It has not been revealed how much each victim received, but one of the victims the media spoke to said it was “enough to pay psychologists but not enough to buy real estate.” The amount would be somewhere in between.