BUFFALO — A couple who tried to save a bus filled with children from a flooding river will share their story at Putman Baptist Church Tuesday night.
Rev. Richard Koons and his wife, Lavonda, were among the adults and more than 300 children attending a church camp at the Pot O’Gold Ranch near Comfort, Texas, on the south side of the Guadalupe River in July of 1987. On the night of July 16 and the morning of July 17, 12 inches of rain fell on the Texas hill country to the north of the ranch, causing immense flash flooding. While the camp was scheduled to end later that day, its supervisors decided to evacuate the children that morning before the river rose too high. At around 9 a.m. the children and accompanying adults were loaded into their buses and driven to a crossing on the river where the water was still low.
Most of the buses managed to make it across, but the bus from the the Seagoville Road Baptist Church/Balch Springs Christian Academy did not.
On board the bus were the Koons, two other adult chaperones, and 39 children ranging in age from 8 to 17. Theirs had been the last bus to leave the camp and when it attempted to cross the river it stalled because of the rising water. In an attempt to get everyone across safely, the Koons and the other adult chaperones had everyone join hands and form a human chain. As they were attempting to finish crossing the river, however, a sudden surge of water broke the chain and swept everyone away.
The Koons, the other chaperones and 29 of the children were rescued by personnel from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the US Army’s 507th Medical Division. They were unable to rescue the other 10 children. Among the dead was a 14-year-old girl who, while being airlifted from the river by a helicopter, lost her grip on the rope and fell to her death. Her body and that of eight of the other nine children were eventually recovered from the river. The body of the tenth child, a 17-year-old boy, was never recovered.
The story of that flood was made into a movie in 1993 called “The Flood: Who Will Save Our Children?” starring Joe Spano as Richard Koons. It has also been featured on the TV series “Rescue 911” and other TV shows, on the Weather Channel, and in the pages of Reader’s Digest.
In the years since, Richard and Lavonda Koons have spoken to churches, student camps, Fellowship of Christian Athlete events, and on radio and television about that day in 1987. On Tuesday, April 10 at 7 p.m. they will again share their story, this time at Putman Baptist Church.
A press release announcing the event states that the Koons’ message is “the heroic story of sacrifice, suspense and ultimately success. This event has the potential to change your life and the life of your family.”
If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Tommy Mann at 864-426-3706 or email at [email protected]
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.