Editor’s note — the following is excerpted from a 1965 edition of The Observer
Thursday, SEPT. 9, 1965 — Tragedy struck three Kearny homes yesterday (Wednesday, Sept. 8, 1965) when two Kearny High juniors and a sophomore were killed instantly by a train while on their way to school for the start of the fall term. Four other youths missed certain death when they awaited the lifting of gates at the Elm Street grade crossing of the Greenwood Lake Division of the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad.
The dead youths were: Robert Floyd, 16m of 19 Howell Place and Rodney Murdock, 16, of 14 Schuyler Court, who were entering their junior year and Richard Collins, 15, of Forest Street, a sophomore.
Det. Capt. Raymond Donovan said eyewitnesses to the tragedy agreed the grade crossing gates were down and the danger flash was operating when the accident occurred.
Statements by Thomas Jerome, 17, of 583 Forest St.; Stephen Zalewski, 17, of 18 Prospect Place; Daniel McElroy, 16, of 566 Forest St.; and Alex Greer, 16, of 10 Howell Place, said that the seven had approached the crossing together as the gates were lowered when an eastbound passenger train slowed down to a stop at the Arlington Station.
The youths said an empty freight car on the siding on the north side of the tracks obstructed a view down the westbound track. They were uncertain Donovan said, as to whether Floyd, Murdock and Collins went under the gates or around the gate stanchion as the eastbound train pulled away from the station.
All agreed the three students passed the rear of the freight car and were squarely on the westbound track when the train plowed into them.
Andrew Smith, 42, of Jersey City, fireman, who was driving the diesel-engine powered train, and Whitefield M. Yahares, conductor, were arraigned last night before Magistrate Saul G. Schulter, in Kearny Municipal Court, on charges of manslaughter and paroled to the Hudson County Probation Department, pending a preliminary hearing next Wednesday morning. William Kleeman of Clifton, the engineer, was paroled as a material witness.
In a written statement to police, Smith said the train, an express from Hoboken, was traveling about 45 miles an hour when he first saw the three youths emerge from behind the freight car. His engine, he said, was about 15 feet from them.
Smith said he immediately applied the emergency brake and that the train came to a stop within 400 feet. The train consisted of two passenger cars carrying 12 passengers and was delayed 40 minute before resuming its run.
Floyd leaves behind his parents, Mr. & Mrs. Leland C. Floyd and six sisters and brothers, one of whom PFC Leland C. Floyd Jr., 20, is serving in the U.S. Army in France. The funeral will be at 10 a.m., Saturday, from the John D. Crane & Sons Funeral Home.
Murdock leaves his stepfather, Edward Hedden his mother Mrs. Beatrice Hedden, and a brother, Lloyd, 20. The funeral will be Saturday from the George J. Brierly Funeral Home to Trinity Episcopal Church.
Collins leaves his parents, Mr. & Mrs. Paul Collins, two sisters and a brother. The funeral will be at 9 a.m., Saturday, from Condon Funeral Home with a High Mass of Requiem in St. Stephen’s Church.
Sidebar: Father collapses at wheel of auto
Thursday, SEPT. 9, 1965 — Leland C. Floyd, of 19 Howell Place, Kearny, narrowly missed being involved in an automobile accident yesterday morning when he heard the news of the death of his son, Robert, 16.
Floyd was driving north on Davis Avenue in response to a telephone call he had received at work telling him to come right home.
At the intersection of Bergen Avenue (at Davis), a radio newscast broke the news to him that his son had just been killed by a train. He just managed to bring his car to a halt in the middle of the heavily traveled street before he slumped over the steering wheel, unconscious from shock.
Motorcycle Officer William Thompson, on traffic duty in the area, spotted the stricken man and summoned Dets. John Silvers and John Mooney, who were just leaving the nearby Shaw Funeral Home, where the bodies of Robert and his two companions had been taken.
They revived the grieving father and brought him home.