Guadalupe River (TPWD photo/file)
COMFORT (July 17, 1987)--On July 17, 1987, 25 years ago Tuesday, the Guadalupe River surged from its banks and an eight-foot wall of water that raced down a normally dry channel swamped a bus and a van carrying 43 teenagers from a church campground near Comfort.
Ten of the teenagers died including a 14-year-old girl who lost her grip and fell 100-feet into the raging river as a helicopter crew tried to lift her to safety.
The body of one of the teenagers was never recovered.
The teenagers from the Seagoville Road Baptist Church in Balch Springs were leaving the Pot O’Gold Ranch when the bus, which was ahead of the van, stalled in the rising water just as it would have turned away from the river onto a farm-to-market road.
The teenagers, the two drivers and two adults who accompanied the group tried to get out and form a human chain to get back to dry land, but the wall of water separated them.
The drivers and the adults survived, but many of the surviving 33 teenagers spent hours clinging to tree branches before they were finally rescued.
The force of the flash flood pushed the bus 150 yards downstream.
The van was later found lodged against the riverbank.
One report later said the group “was exactly at the wrong place at exactly the wrong time.”
If they had arrived at the spot a few seconds earlier, they would have avoided the worst of the flash flood.
If they had arrived a few seconds later, the drivers would have seen the floodwaters.